Baghdad cleans up after deadly bombing

BAGHDAD – Storekeepers swept up broken glass in darkness. Grim-faced shoppers cut forlorn figures making their way home down side streets. Trucks hauled off the charred skeletons of cars under police escort.

A dreary mood descended after a parked car loaded with explosives blew up and killed at least 16 people yesterday in a Shiite district of Baghdad where life had come closer to normal than any other during the security campaign that has quieted the city’s long bout of violence.

The bombing in Karradah – the deadliest of four across Iraq that killed at least 25 people – came less than an hour before Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters in the heavily fortified Green Zone across the Tigris River that “a secure, stable Iraq is within reach.”

U.S. military commanders, meanwhile, announced that three American soldiers were killed Tuesday during an attack by insurgents north of Baghdad.

The Karradah bombing, which bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq, was followed by gunfire and sirens. A plume of smoke rose into the dusky sky, and a witness said several trees caught fire and burned.

Police and hospital officials said at least 16 people died and 38 were wounded by the blast on a busy commercial street in the heart of Karradah. It hit during rush hour as shoppers crowded into stores preparing for Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, later this month.

Karradah was frequently attacked with car bombs in the past, but it had become one of Baghdad’s quietest neighborhoods during a stepped-up security campaign by U.S. and Iraqi forces that has greatly reduced violence after 4 years of destruction and sectarian hatred.

“There are people who want to end the security improvements and bring back chaos,” said Firas Adel, who owns a store about 400 yards from the bombing.