A huge explosion ripped through a crowded market close to the west Baghdad police headquarters today, killing at least 47 people in the deadliest single attack in the capital in six months. The U.S. army and Iraqi Interior Ministry said the blast was a car bomb attack on the police building in Haifa Street. The Health Ministry said 114 people wounded.
The Interior Ministry and witnesses said there may have been at least two simultaneous car bomb blasts. Witnesses said mortars may also have been fired at the same time. At the blast site, rescuers pulled bodies from mangled market stalls. The area was littered with shoes, clothes and body parts, as well as fruit and vegetables from the market. Bloodstained corpses lay on pavements strewn with chairs, glass and rubble from blown-out shop fronts. Smoke from blazing vehicles in the middle of the street billowed into the sky, as fire crews tried to douse the flames. A huge crater was punched into the road. Ambulances with sirens wailing ferried the dead and wounded to hospital as U.S. helicopters buzzed overhead.
In a separate attack in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, 12 policemen were killed and two wounded when gunmen opened fire on their minibus. Meanwhile, US attacks have continued on the Iraqi town of Tal Afar near the border with Syria. U.S. ground troops attacked the city and F-15 and F-16 jets dropped 500- and 2,000-pound bombs on one of the city’s main roads. Iraqi Health officials say that 42 Iraqis have been killed there since last Thursday, including a number of women and children.
Meanwhile, US airstrikes and artillery attacks continued in Falluja as well. Hospital officials say at least 20 people have been killed in the past day. The US military said early this morning two soldiers were killed and three wounded in an attack. Meanwhile, a wire report published by the New York Times says the White House is proposing to shift more than $3 billion from reconstruction projects in Iraq towards improving security and oil production.
And two Australians and two “East Asians” were kidnapped. A guerilla group said Australia needs to leave Iraq in 24 hours or the hostages will be killed.
Meanwhile, there is still no word on the fate of the 2 Italian women and two Iraqi aid workers who were kidnapped in Baghdad on September 7. The Italian Foreign Minister is touring Gulf countries, he says in an effort to free the hostages and to recover the body on an Italian journalist killed by kidnappers more than a week ago. Meanwhile, Democracy Now! has obtained a videotaped interview with one of the hostages. It was filmed in February of this year. Filmmaker and activist Francis Anderson filmed the interview with Simona Torretta in the Baghdad office of the Italian aid organization A Bridge to Baghdad.
That was Simona Torretta speaking in February to filmmaker Francis Anderson. She is currently being held hostage, along with Italian Simona Pari and Iraqis Raad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnoaz Bassam. We will hear more of this interview later in the show.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who made the case to the world that pre-war Iraq had stocks of chemical and biological weapons, said on Monday he now thought WMDs will probably never be found. He told lawmakers, “I think it’s unlikely that we will find any stockpiles,”
Powell was responding to questions about the intelligence behind his Feb. 5, 2003, U.N. Security Council speech laying out U.S. arguments for the invasion of Iraq that began six weeks later. Powell’s latest comments appear to be his most explicit to date suggesting that the central argument for President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was false. On Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Powell said he had seen “nothing that makes a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9-11 attacks. Asked how he believes Sen. John Kerry would respond to a terrorist attack, Powell said, “I can’t tell you how he might respond to it. As commander in chief, I think he’d respond to it in a robust way.” NBC’s Tim Russert, using language similar to a question President Bush had posed about Kerry regarding the former Iraqi leader, asked Powell if he “knew today that Saddam did not have these weapons of mass destruction, would you still advocate an invasion?”
Powell did not answer directly, but said, “I would have to look at the total picture, and we’d have to sit down and talk about his intention to have such weapons.”
A federal appeals court yesterday rejected a bid by the so-called 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui that would have made him ineligible for the death penalty, clearing the way for the first U.S. trial on charges related to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit denied Moussaoui’s appeal of its order that he cannot interview key al Qaeda detainees. A trial judge had barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty and from presenting Sept. 11-related evidence as punishment for their refusal to turn over the witnesses.
Yesterday’s 2 to 1 decision by the three-judge panel in Richmond sends the case back to Alexandria for the judge to craft a compromise that allows Moussaoui to present at his trial statements made by the detainees without interviewing them.
As of yesterday, AK-47s, Uzis and TEC-9s are back on shelves in US gun stores after the 10-year ban on assault weapons signed by President Clinton expired yesterday. Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry blasted President Bush for allowing the ban to expire. In a small gymnasium at the Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington, surrounded by police officers and politicians including D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, Kerry accused Bush of helping put dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists by refusing to fight for an extension of the ban on semiautomatic weapons.
John Kerry speaking yesterday. President Bush had said he supported the law, but he did not pressure the GOP-led Congress to extend the 10-year ban on 19 firearm models that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Kerry said he will fight to reinstate the ban if he is elected president, though some congressional Democrats and most Republicans oppose it.
The Justice Department has launched two internal investigations into the arrest of Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield. Mayfield was detained by the FBI earlier this year because of a faulty fingerprint analysis that wrongly linked him to the deadly terrorist bombings in Madrid.
News of the investigations was released in a report to Congress from Inspector General Glenn Fine. Fine is investigating the FBI’s conduct in the case, including whether Mayfield was targeted in part because of his Muslim beliefs
This news from Russia: President Vladimir Putin has announced plans for a “radically restructured” political system that would bolster his power by ending the popular election of governors and independent lawmakers.
Putin said the moves are needed to “strengthen the unity of the country” in response to the recent terrorist attacks. Also, members of the lower house of parliament, the Duma, would be picked from party lists rather than elected directly.
A former Russian parliamentary leader told the Washington Post “It’s the beginning of a constitutional coup d’etat. It’s a step toward dictatorship.”
And the European Union has threatened Sudan with sanctions if the government doesn’t curb militia attacks in the country’s western region of Darfur. The UN announced that as many as 10,000 Sudanese a month are dying from disease and violence in refugee camps.