Iraqis began burying the more than 200 Shiite victims of a series of car bombs and rocket attacks Thursday in the Shiite district of Sadr City. VOA's Margaret Besheer in Northern Iraq reports Iraqi politicians are calling for restraint.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered police to guard the funeral processions of victims of the attacks being taken from Baghdad 160-kilometers south to the holy Shiite city of Najaf for burial.
The Interior Ministry closed Baghdad's International airport indefinitely, and the rest of the capital remained under a 24-hour curfew aimed at stopping more Shiite-Sunni violence.
The series of well-coordinated blasts Thursday killed and wounded scores of civilians in what is the deadliest attack since the war began in 2003. Medics said many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. The explosions and ensuing fires also destroyed entire blocks of shops and residences in the impoverished neighborhood.
In the attack's aftermath, several mortar rounds rained down on Sunni Arab neighborhoods in Baghdad; casualties were reported.
Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite, urged restraint and calm in the wake of the crime, and called on all political groups to unite to protect their fellow Iraqis from such violence.
Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab, went on Iraqi television, flanked by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. He said everybody should start urgently looking for a solution to Iraq's problems and commit to building the authority of the state and establishing law and order. The vice president mourned the dead, saying, "We are sharing people's sadness and we pray for mercy for those who were killed in the attack and for a quick recovery for the wounded."
Adnan al-Dulami, the head of the main Sunni Arab bloc in parliament, denounced the bombings as an attempt to drag the country toward civil war.
Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, added his voice to the condemnations and called for self-control among his followers. While a representative of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, for whose father Sadr City is named, said on Iraqi television that they believe the attacks were carried out to coincide with the eighth anniversary of the elder cleric's assassination.