In Iraq, the grief-stricken town of Musayyib began burying some of the victims of Saturday's fiery suicide bombing, which killed more than 90 people and wounded more than 150 others. The bombing in Musayyib is the latest and deadliest in a week-long wave of suicide attacks in and around Baghdad.
Anxious relatives mobbed the Jumhuri General Hospital in the provincial capital of
|Iraqi policeman in a convoy of security waves at a passing funeral procession for a man who died in a suicide bombing in Musayyib|
Hillah, hoping they would not find their loved ones among the dozens of charred corpses wrapped in white sheets laid out on the ground.
Tears fell down the face of a young Iraqi man, as he lifted one sheet after another, searching for his missing cousin.
"I cannot tell who is who. They are all so badly burned, I cannot recognize their faces," the Iraqi man says.
Nearby, a woman, shrouded in a black robe, collapsed to the ground, wailing with grief. She says she, too, cannot tell if her missing son is among the dead.
"Where is my son? Where is he? Someone please tell me," she cries.
Even for citizens used to relentless violence, witnesses say Saturday's suicide attack was horrific beyond words.
According to the Iraqi police, a huge gasoline tanker, laden with fuel, slowly drove into the center of Musayyib early in the evening. The driver pulled up in front of a Shi'ite mosque, stepped out of the vehicle, and opened up the fuel valves located near the rear of the tanker. He, then, opened his shirt and detonated explosives strapped to his body.
The blast created an enormous fireball, which swept through a crowd of pedestrians, shoppers, and worshippers heading to sunset prayers. The fireball also set at least 20 cars on fire, and destroyed two tea shops, a restaurant and part of an apartment building.
An Iraqi army soldier, manning one of the numerous security checkpoints set up near Musayyib, says he believes the bombing was aimed at killing Shi'ite civilians and escalating sectarian tension, which has been building in the religiously-mixed town.
The army soldier, Jameel Harbi, says, for months, large trucks had been banned from coming into town because they posed a security risk. Mr. Harbi says the tanker was allowed to drive into Musayyib only because someone in uniform was cooperating with the militants who staged the attack.
There is definite collaboration between the extremists and some of the Sunni-Arab policemen in Musayyib, the Shi'ite soldier alleges.
The town of Musayyib, about 64 kilometers south of Baghdad, sits in what the U.S. military calls the "triangle of death" because numerous Shi'ite Muslims, traveling between Baghdad and the Shi'ite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, have been killed in the area in recent years by Sunni insurgents.
No one has claimed responsibility for Saturday's suicide attack.
But a posting on al-Qaida in Iraq's Web site says, suicide operations in Iraq were continuing as planned and that more attacks would be forthcoming.
Al-Qaida in Iraq is led by Sunni Muslim extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has vowed to start a sectarian conflict between Shi'ite Muslims and Sunni Arabs.
Hours before the Musayyib attack, militants struck elsewhere in and around Baghdad, killing at least 16 people. The day before, 10 militants blew themselves up in and around the capital, killing more than 30 people.
On Sunday, four separate suicide car bombings killed nearly 20 people in the Baghdad area.
The violence, targeting mainly Shi'ite Muslims, has raised fears that Iraq could break apart along sectarian and ethnic lines.