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Bombings kill 200 in NW Iraq
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08:28, August 16, 2007

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The US military said yesterday Al-Qaida was the "prime suspect" in suicide bomb attacks on a minority sect that Iraqi officials said killed 200 people in northwest Iraq.

Television pictures showed badly burned and screaming survivors, many of them children, in hospital. Rescue workers searched for bodies in the rubble of dozens of clay houses destroyed in up to five simultaneous car bombings overnight.

The attackers, driving fuel tankers, struck densely populated residential areas west of the city of Mosul that are home to members of the Yazidi sect, whose followers are considered infidels by Sunni Islamist militant groups.

The US military said it was too early to say who was responsible, but the scale and apparently coordinated nature of the bombings were hallmarks of Sunni Islamist Al-Qaida. The United States condemned the attack as barbaric.

"We're looking at Al-Qaida as the prime suspect," said US military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver.

The mayor of the district of Sinjar, Dakheel Qassim Hasoun, said 200 people had been killed. The remoteness of the area made it difficult to establish details of the attacks or the number of casualties.

The death toll appeared to be the highest in any one attack since November, when six car bombs in different parts of Baghdad's Shi'ite Sadr City district killed 200 people and wounded 250.

Iraq's political leaders, including Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani,-a Kurd, condemned the "heinous" bombings in northwest Iraq and ordered an investigation.

In the aftermath of the blast, authorities imposed a total curfew in the Sinjar area, which is close to the Syrian border.

Mayor Hasoun said only people and vehicles involved in rescue efforts would be allowed to move through the area. He said it would be impossible to establish a final death toll soon because many bodies were still buried in the rubble of up to 30 houses destroyed in the blasts.

Iraqi authorities said the death toll was so high because most of the destroyed houses, tightly packed in three Yazidi residential compounds, were made of clay that shattered with the force of the blasts.

"It is going to be difficult to get a full death toll because of the nature of the buildings," Garver said.

The US military said five vehicle-borne bombs had been detonated in Yazidi residential compounds in the villages of Kahtaniya and al-Jazeera. Jaad said the village of Tal Uzair was also hit. Residents said all the victims appeared to be Yazidis.

They said Kahtaniya was home to about 18,000 people, while 20,000 lived in al-Jazeera. The compounds were built in the mid-1970s under Saddam Hussein, when Yazidis were forced out of villages around the Nineveh provincial capital, Mosul.

Yazidis are members of a pre-Islamic Kurdish sect who live in northern Iraq and Syria. Sunni militants have kidnapped and killed many in recent months.

In April, gunmen shot dead 23 Yazidi factory workers in Mosul in apparent retaliation for the stoning several weeks earlier of a teenaged Yazidi girl who police said had fallen in love with a Sunni Arab and converted to Islam.

Source: China Daily/agencies

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