| Iraqis look at the dead body of a two-year-old boy in a Falluja hospital. (AFP)
Baghdad, April 24 (Reuters): Five US soldiers were among more than 40 people killed in bomb, rocket and mortar attacks in Iraq today, the latest spate of violence in the bloodiest month for US-led forces since Saddam Hussein’s fall.
In one of the worst incidents, at least 13 Iraqis were killed and 30 were wounded when mortar bombs struck a busy market in the Shia area of Sadr City in Baghdad, witnesses and hospital sources said. “There was blood and bodies everywhere,” said Bassam Abdul Rahim.
Angry residents of Sadr City — a powerbase of rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who US-led forces have vowed to kill or capture — held up bloodied human remains to television cameras and said US helicopters had fired at the market. They put a sign on a dead donkey saying: “This is Bush.”
Brigadier General Mark Kimmit, the top US military spokesman in Iraq, “categorically” denied US involvement and said those responsible may have been aiming at an old cigarette factory nearby that was used by US-led forces. One woman was killed in a separate attack in the Sadr City area when a mortar bomb hit her home. Her daughter was wounded.
Sadr, who US officials say is wanted by an Iraqi judge in connection with the murder of another cleric, is holed up with his Mehdi Army militia in Najaf.
Yesterday, Sadr threatened to unleash suicide bombers if he was attacked by US forces poised just outside the city. US forces say they are allowing time for Iraqi mediators to resolve the standoff.
Fourteen Iraqis were killed when a bus, travelling to Baghdad just ahead of a convoy of six US military vehicles, was hit by a roadside bomb.
The five American soldiers were killed in a rebel rocket attack on a US base just north of Baghdad, a US military spokesman said. Six other soldiers were wounded.
US helicopter gunships destroyed the truck from which the rockets were launched, but there was no word of casualties among the guerrillas.
Since US-led forces invaded Iraq in March last year to oust Saddam, 515 US soldiers have been killed in action — more than a fifth of them this month.
In Saddam’s home town of Tikrit, a car bomb killed three policemen and wounded 16 people — 12 of them police. It appeared to be a suicide attack.
Polish soldiers killed five Iraqi gunmen who opened fire on their patrol in the holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, Polish military officials said.
West of Baghdad, US marines were poised to resume an offensive in Falluja unless guerrillas turned over heavy weapons. Iraq’s US governor Paul Bremer and General John Abizaid, commander of US forces in the region, visited Falluja today.
The visit was “part of our effort to reach a peaceful resolution”, Dan Senor, spokesman for the US-led administration in Iraq, told a news conference.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy to Iraq who is trying to put together an interim Iraqi government to take over from US-led occupation authorities on June 30, urged the marines to hold off from a new offensive. “I think that there is always a better solution than shooting your way into anywhere,” Brahimi said.
Basra oil terminal hit
At least one boat attacked Iraq’s main oil terminal offshore in the Gulf today.
Asked about an unconfirmed report that two boats exploded at the Basra terminal in suicide attacks, Major Ian Clooey said: “We are just getting reports that there has been an incident at the Basra offshore terminal. There are no firm details yet but we know of at least one vessel involved.”Authorities shut down the terminal after the attack.