A suicide bomber killed at least 33 people and wounded dozens of others on Tuesday as a group of dignitaries, including tribal leaders and security officials, toured a market in the Abu Ghraib district just west of Baghdad.
AFP - A suicide bomber on Tuesday killed 33 people, including tribal chiefs, soldiers and two journalists, in the second major attack around Baghdad in two days, officials said.
The Sunni Arab and Shiite tribal leaders, escorted by army officers, were going to meet people in the local market as part of a national reconciliation campaign when they came under attack.
"Casualties rose to 33 dead and the victims were civilians, including tribal leaders, as well as soldiers," an interior ministry official told AFP, adding that 46 people were wounded.
Iraqi state television showed dramatic footage of the immediate aftermath of the bombing. Apparently dead bodies littered the road around the edge of the market.
An ambulance drew up, two men jumped out and picked up a survivor as security forces fired shots across the road towards a block of flats from where the channel said firing had targeted survivors of the blast.
The private Al-Baghdadia channel said it lost a correspondent and a cameraman in the blast at Abu Ghraib, 15 miles (25 kilometres) from the capital.
"Two of our journalists, Haider Hashim and Suhaib Adnan, died in the bombing," said Jihad al-Rubaiye, a journalist from the Cairo-based channel made famous by correspondent Muntazer al-Zaidi who threw his shoes at former US president George W. Bush.
Al-Bagdadia.com website put up photographs of its two slain staff and verses of the Koran were read out live on screen in their memory.
Ibrahim al-Katib, a reporter from Iraqi state television, was gravely wounded and had to undergo emergency brain surgery, said the Iraqi Journalism Freedom Observatory, a media defence organisation.
Another three of the channel's staff were slightly injured.
At least 246 media workers, among them 22 foreigners, have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion of March 2003, making it one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, according to the observatory.
Reporters without Borders said it was "appalled" by the attack. "The security situation had until now seemed to be improving in Iraq," the Paris-based group said in a statement.
"The suicide bomber targeted a tour of the tribal leaders under the command of Major General Mared Abdel Hassen and other officers," said Brigadier General Qassim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad army command operations.
Hassen, who is in charge of tribal affairs in the interior ministry, escaped unhurt.
Atta said the bomber triggered an explosive vest as he approached the tribal chiefs.
Tuesday's carnage came after a suicide bomber on a bicycle killed 28 people and wounded 56 outside a Baghdad police academy on Sunday.
The security forces are a frequent target in Iraq despite a dramatic fall in death tolls since late 2007.
Special UN envoy to Iraq Staffan de Mistura condemned the attack, calling it a "horrible crime that is designed to sabotage reconciliatory efforts by the Iraqi people, who, I am confident, will continue on the road of dialogue."
The latest attack took place just after midday in Abu Ghraib, once a hotbed of Al-Qaeda and other insurgents and home to the infamous jail of the same name, which is now called Baghdad Central Prison.
The facility came under the international spotlight in 2006 after a scandal of prisoner abuse photographed by US jailers drew worldwide opprobrium on the US-led occupation.
Under Saddam Hussein's regime, the jail was notorious for torture and execution with an estimated 4,000 detainees losing their lives there.
The bombing came the same day as Baath party hardliners spurned repeated calls for national reconciliation from the "traitors" of the new government.
The banned party is fronted by Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, number two to Iraq's executed president Saddam Hussein and the sole senior Saddam aide still on the run. He is accused by US commanders of organising a bloody insurrection.
"The Baath and its men reject... meetings, dialogue and agreement with the collaborators, spies and traitors," said a statement on the party's official Al-Basrah.net website.
The rejection came in response to almost daily appeals from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government for all Iraqis to unite to build a better future.
Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, two people were killed and six wounded in a car bombing in a Christian village, while a policeman was killed and another injured by a roadside bomb near the oil city of Kirkuk, security sources said.
Date created : 2009-03-10