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2 car bombs explode near Shiite shrine

The Baltimore Sun

Baghdad -- Two nearly simultaneous car bombs rocked the district containing Baghdad's most revered Shiite Muslim shrine yesterday, apparently in an attempt to escalate sectarian bloodshed and derail the latest security plan.

Iraqi police said at least seven people were killed and 27 injured in the blasts. The U.S. military, which also responded to the attack, said no one was killed and four were injured.

The bodies of at least 37 Iraqis were found in other violence across Iraq yesterday, and the U.S. military announced the deaths of four soldiers in the past two days.

The bombs exploded about half a mile from the Abu Hanifa shrine in Kadhimiya, on the northwest side of the Tigris River.

Iraqi security forces defused two other car bombs in the area, said Brig. Gen. Qasim Atta Musawi, spokesman for the U.S.-Iraqi operation targeting militants in the capital and surrounding areas. The U.S. military said in a statement that one additional bomb was found in a neighboring section of Kadhimiya about 50 minutes after the blasts.

A nurse reached by telephone at Kadhimiya Teaching Hospital said "many injured people, most of them young, some shoeless, in torn clothes" had been received. At least four were critically injured, she said. She asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

U.S. and Iraqi officials think Sunni Arab insurgents are trying to inflame sectarian tensions with high-profile attacks against Shiite Muslim civilians. There have been signs in recent weeks that such a strategy could be working, including a resurgence in the execution-style killings typically associated with Shiite militias in Sunni-dominated neighborhoods of southwest Baghdad.

Police in the capital recovered the bodies of at least 34 such victims yesterday, 23 of them in west Baghdad.

Late Tuesday, gunmen killed a representative of Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, outside the man's home in Najaf, a Shiite holy city. Sheik Raheem Hassanawi, who had represented the ayatollah in nearby Mishkhab, was found with bullet wounds to the head and chest, police said.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday in bombings in east Baghdad, Diyala province and near Baiji, 125 miles north of the capital, the military said. A fourth soldier died of gunshot wounds sustained in gunfire in Diyala the previous day.

Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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