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Blasts Kill 76 in Baghdad on Samarra Mosque Bombing Anniversary

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Iraqi officials say three bomb blasts at markets in central Baghdad have killed at least 70 people and wounded about 165 others. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Irbil, Iraqis also marked the first anniversary of the bombing of the Shi'ite Askariyaa mosque in Samarra - an attack widely blamed for worsening the country's sectarian violence.

Thick black smoke billowed from the al Shorja marketplace in Baghdad after midday as ambulance and rescue workers rushed to free the wounded from underneath debris.

Two near-simultaneous car bomb blasts set off several secondary explosions, damaging buildings several stories high and gutting street-level shops.

Police said one bomb detonated in an underground garage below a clothing shop. Television images showed fires burning in nearby buildings and body parts and rubble littering the streets.

Another smaller explosion in the Bab al-Sharqi area killed at least five people.

Meanwhile, Iraq's government commemorated the Islamic calendar's first anniversary of Samarra's Askariya mosque bombing. The attack that blew apart the famous mosque's signature golden dome took place February 22 last year.

During Monday's official commemoration, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki called the bombing a horrible crime.

Maliki says the bombing was really two crimes; one for attacking a holy place, and the other for causing many revenge attacks.

U.S. and Iraqi officials trace Iraq's more recent chaotic sectarian killings and kidnappings to the attack on the Askariya shrine - a revered Shi'ite mosque that is also holy to Sunnis. Officials have blamed al-Qaida members for the attack.

Elsewhere, Iran is denying U.S. allegations that the country is supplying Iraqi insurgents with sophisticated explosives for use against American forces. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman says U.S. allegations that top Iranian leaders have approved the transactions are "unacceptable."

The spokesman accused U.S. officials of manufacturing evidence that allegedly links Iran to the devices.

 

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