BAGHDAD – Suspected Sunni insurgents penetrated the Baghdad security net Wednesday, hitting Shiite targets with four bomb attacks that killed 183 people – the bloodiest day since the U.S. troop surge began nine weeks ago.
Late Wednesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of the Iraqi army colonel who was in charge of security in the area around the Sadriyah market where at least 127 people died and 148 were wounded in the deadliest bombing of the day.
It was the second massive blast at the market since Feb. 3.
Nationwide, the number of people killed or found dead on Wednesday was 233, which was the second deadliest day in Iraq since The Associated Press began keeping records in May 2005. Five car bombings, mortar rounds and other attacks killed 281 people across Iraq on Nov. 23, 2006, according to the AP count.
Interior Minister spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf declined to comment when asked about the staggering number of deaths Wednesday, directing an Associated Press reporter to Brig. Gen.Qassim al-Moussawi, the military spokesman. His phone was turned off.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the bombings “horrifying” and accused al-Qaida of being behind them.
Among the dead in the Sadriyah market bombing were several construction workers who had been rebuilding the mostly Shiite marketplace after the February bombing that killed 137 people, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The laborers typically finish work around 4 p.m. each day. One of those wounded, 28-year-old Salih Mustafa, said he was waiting for a minibus to head home when the blast went off at 4:05 p.m.
The market is situated on a side street lined with shops and vendors selling produce, meat and other staples.