BAGHDAD — Kadoon Quddori was sipping juice at an outdoor cafe Wednesday night when he saw a police officer wave a car away from an illegal parking space. Minutes later, he glanced back and saw the car again. It's the last thing he remembers from the night.
The car exploded, killing 40 people in the predominantly Shiite Muslim neighborhood in northwest Baghdad. At least 83 were wounded, police said Thursday, among them Quddori, who's recovering in a Baghdad hospital with shrapnel wounds across his face.
The bombing started a wave of violence that spread across the country over 18 hours, killing at least 63 people. They included three U.S. service members, who were attacked by a suicide bomber while they were on foot patrol in Doura, a Sunni Muslim neighborhood in southern Baghdad, Iraqi police said. Twelve Iraqis died in that attack, police said.
The U.S. military couldn't immediately verify the reported American deaths.
A suicide bomber in the northern city of Kirkuk attacked a group of Sunni militia fighters allied with the American military as they lined up for their paychecks Thursday. The bomber, who was wearing the same uniform as the militiamen and a suicide vest, killed eight people and wounded seven, said Col. Adnan Muhammed of the Kirkuk police.
The surge in violence comes on the heels of a contentious meeting between Sunni militias — known as the Sons of Iraq — and the Shiite-dominated government Tuesday.
More than 94,000 Sons of Iraq fighters were promised government jobs for their help hunting down and killing fellow Sunnis who fought for al Qaida in Iraq. Those jobs have been slow to materialize, and threats of violent retaliation by the Sons of Iraq against the U.S. military and Iraqi government have been a growing concern.
It's no longer customary for insurgents to take responsibility for attacks in Iraq, so in most cases people are left to assume that the culprits are from the rival sect of most of the victims.
"The government has not pointed a finger of accusation at any specific group," Sunni parliament member Abdul Karim al Samarrai said, "so it would not be wise to name names at this delicate time."
Many, however, especially in Shiite neighborhoods, link such attacks to the Baath Party of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was Sunni.
"This was done by a Baathist, because he left the car. Baathists do not kill themselves," Salam Hameed said of Wednesday's attack, waiting in the halls of Baghdad's Kathemiya General hospital as doctors sutured shrapnel wounds from the attack in the neck of his 12-year old nephew.
As the boy screamed, Hameed added, "they are bloody people, and they just want to prove that they are still here."
In the hospital director's office, Dr. Ali Subhi looked tired and sounded resigned. "There is a deteriorating security situation. We expect it to get worse," he said.
Dolan reports for The Miami Herald. Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent. Special correspondent Sahar Issa contributed to this report.
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