Blasts in Iraq
Three car bombs exploded in front of Iraqi police stations in the southern city of Basra on Wednesday morning, killing more than three dozen people and wounding more than 70, according to initial reports from the police and witnesses.
A fourth explosion hit a police station in the nearby town of Zubeir, according to a witness in one of BasraÃ¢€™s main hospitals, who was speaking to medics as they brought in people wounded in the blast.
One of the blasts in Basra hit a school bus during the morning rush hour, when school buses are circulating and commuters are on their way to work, according to Iraqi witnesses. Traffic was heavy around the police stations, situated in the center of the city.
Bodies of schoolchildren were burning inside the bus. Iraqis helped pick up bodies of victims as ambulances wailed to the scene.
Hospital workers brought in burned corpses to the city’s hospitals. Witnesses counted 37 dead and 75 wounded at two of BasraÃ¢€™s hospitals, but the death toll was expected to rise as figures were compiled. BasraÃ¢€™s police chief was expected to announce officials figures later on Wednesday.
Hisham Halawa, a spokesman for British forces in Basra, said in an interview with Al-Jazeera that British forces were unable to reach at least two of the police stations. Al Jazeera, quoting its own reporter in the city, said angry Iraqis pelted the British forces with rocks.
A military spokeswoman said no members of the U.S.-led coalition were reported killed in the in the blast, but a spokesman for the British Defense Ministry said four British soldiers were injured in the Zubair explosion, two of them seriously.
British forces have responsibility for the southernmost sections of Iraq, which includes Basra. Tensions rose, but the peace largely held, during the insurgency that flared earlier this month in other parts of the south, where IraqÃ¢€™s Shiite Muslim majority is concentrated.
The coordinated car bombings — which officials described as suicide bombings — were the first such strikes in Iraq for several weeks.
Some officials suggested the lull indicated that elements responsible for carrying out earlier suicide attacks were busy fighting U.S. forces that have engaged insurgents in several cities this month, including Baghdad, Fallujah, Baqubah, Kut, and Najaf.
Aside from the senselessness of the slaughter, this is amazingly counterproductive. Not only will this certainly increase British resolve but the mass slaughter of innocents unassociated with the American mission can’t help in the “hearts and minds” struggle. A key advantage guerrilas have in the Maoist model is that they live amongst the people and curry their good favor, as contrasted with occupation or regime forces that are perceived as outsiders.