Baghdad: Insurgent bomb attacks massacred 43 people in Shiite shopping areas of Baghdad on 15 April 2007, while two British helicopters crashed after an apparent mid-air collision that killed two crew members.
Eighteen people died when a booby-trapped car blew up outside a restaurant and a second ripped through a market in the southern Al-Shurta al-Arabaa suburb of Iraq’s capital, in bloody defiance of a two-month-old security crackdown.
“Of those killed 10 are men, five women and three children,” said a medic at Yarmuk Hospital, adding that 35 wounded were receiving treatment, among them more women and children.
As the skeleton of burnt wreckage still smouldered, a bus rigged with bombs exploded in a downtown shopping district in Karrada, killing at least 11 people and wounding 18, defence and security sources said.
In the northern and predominantly Shiite district of Al-Utaifiyah, a suicide bomber boarded a minibus and blew himself up, killing six people and wounding 10, said another security official on condition of anonymity.
Soon after nightfall, two roadside bombs exploded within minutes of each other in Karrada, killing eight people and wounding 23, a security official said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki slammed the militants for striking at civilians. “By targeting vital civil institutions and innocent civilians, terrorist groups reveal their failure to confront our armed forces, which are carrying out Operation Fardh al-Qanoon successfully in Baghdad,” he said in a statement.
Iraqi and US troops have been pressing the offensive, known in English as Operation Imposing Law, since 14 February in a bid to win back the initiative from insurgents and sectarian militias who terrorise the local population.
But every day insurgents continue to bomb heavily populated areas in a bid to undermine the crackdown, and they are striking increasingly outside the capital, melting away from the main thrust of the initiative.
Two British helicopters crashed in Iraq on 15 April, killing two Britons and seriously wounding a third, although officials said the incident appeared to have been a mid-air accident rather than the result of hostile fire.
“Now that next of kin have been informed, I can confirm that the two helicopters reported this morning as having crashed north of Baghdad earlier today were, in fact, both UK helicopters,” British Defence Secretary Des Browne said in London.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said it would be a time of “great grief and anguish” for the families of those killed.
“But what our forces are doing there, what British forces are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, is they are fighting the same forces of terrorism and extremism that are operating around the world today.”
The Puma helicopters, which normally carry up to 16 people with a crew of three, came down in the early hours of the morning in a rural area southwest of Taji, home to a huge American military base north of Baghdad.
The BBC, citing military sources, said the helicopters were taking part in a special forces operation, which would explain why the incident occurred so far north of where British troops are based in the main southern city of Basra.