Handicapped bombers kill dozens in Iraq
Officials say 2 handicapped female suicide bombers struck pet markets
BAGHDAD - Remote-controlled explosives strapped to two mentally handicapped women detonated in a coordinated attack on pet bazaars Friday, police and Iraqi officials said, killing at least 73 people in the deadliest day since the U.S. sent 30,000 extra troops to the capital this spring.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said the bombings showed that a resilient al-Qaida has "found a different, deadly way" to try to destabilize Iraq.
"There is nothing they won't do if they think it will work in creating carnage and the political fallout that comes from that," Crocker told The Associated Press in an interview at the State Department.
Associated Press records, however, show that since the start of the war at least 151 people have been killed in at least 17 attacks or attempted attacks by female suicide bombers, including today's bombings.
Iraqi officials said the women apparently were mentally disabled and the explosives were detonated by remote control, indicating they may not having been willing attackers in what could be a new method by suspected Sunni insurgents to subvert stepped up security measures.
In the first attack, a woman detonated explosives hidden under her traditional black Islamic robe at about 10:20 a.m. in the central al-Ghazl market. The weekly bazaar has been bombed several times since the war started but recently had re-emerged as a popular place to shop and stroll as Baghdad security improved and a Friday ban on driving was lifted.
Four police and hospital officials said at least 46 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. Firefighters scooped up debris scattered among pools of blood, clothing and pigeon carcasses.
About 20 minutes later, a second female suicide bomber struck a bird market in a predominantly Shiite area in southeastern Baghdad. That blast killed as many as 27 people and wounded 67, according to police and hospital officials.
The attacks were the latest in a series of violent incidents that have been chipping away at Iraqi confidence in the permanence of recent security gains.
Women with Down syndrome selected
The chief Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, claimed the female bombers apparently had Down syndrome and the explosives were detonated by remote control. Bolstering that claim, local police said the woman in the first attack sold cream in the morning at the market and was known to locals as "the crazy lady."
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said about 70 people were killed in both attacks, which he said were committed by terrorists motivated by revenge and "to show that they are still able to stop the march of history and of our people toward reconciliation."