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Latest Baghdad Bombing Kills Dozens

April 7, 2006 at 12:00 AM EDT
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MARGARET WARNER: Borzou Daragahi, welcome.

You went to the scene right after the bombing today at the Baghdad mosque that left so many people dead. What was it like?

BORZOU DARAGAHI, The Los Angeles Times: It was truly a horrible scene right outside of the mosque. There was — body parts scattered everywhere.

There was bits of flesh. There was a lot of weeping people, very upset people, very traumatized people who had been involved in the rescue effort. There is a hospital just a few hundred feet away from there. And, as we walked to the hospital, we could see little trails of blood from the people who had — the injured people who had dragged themselves to the emergency room.

MARGARET WARNER: It has been reported that some — at least one or maybe more of the suicide bombers were wearing women’s robes. From talking to people there, what more were you able to learn about how the attack was perpetrated?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: According to the witnesses that I spoke to, the first bomb was actually detonated by a woman, and they knew that because the body parts of the woman, they — they located them. And they — they had kind of — I mean, it sounds kind of gross a little, but they had separated the — the body parts of the suicide bomber.

Often, they do that for DNA testing. And what happened is, as that first explosion hit, there was a panic. People who were leaving the mosque went back into the mosque. And, at that point, in the confusion, two more suicide bombers managed to sneak into the main courtyard of the mosque and set off two explosions there.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, explain about this mosque, because it has political, as well as religious significance, right?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Yes.

Jalal Eddin Sagheer is the Friday prayer leader at this particular mosque. He is a member of parliament, and also — a sort of a Shiite father, like a firebrand, maybe like a — a Shiite Father Coughlin in a way, who is kind of a — a chauvinist about the Shiites. He’s viewed as very sectarian by Sunnis. And he’s definitely a hard-liner when it comes to giving Sunnis concessions and so on. He’s definitely a — a Shiite sectarian big shot.

MARGARET WARNER: And he’s allied with SCIRI, one of the two main parties in this Shiite alliance.

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Yes. He is the — maybe one of the top deputies of Abdel Aziz Hakim, who is the leader of SCIRI. He’s definitely the most outspoken and the most sort of unrestrained in his rhetoric against the — the Sunnis and in favor of the rights of the Shiites.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, he also was one of the first — or one of the few Shiite politicians last weekend to come out and call for Prime Minister al-Jaafari to step aside to try to resolve this stalemate over forming the new government.

Do the authorities there think that might have made this mosque a target?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: That was a position that he took that was aligned with mainstream Sunni politicians.

So, I — I don’t think that most people think that there was a connection between that. Generally, I think a lot of people view him as kind of a loudmouth and a chauvinist. And I think that was probably more the reason for that.

Indeed, his position on the — on — on the prime minister is in tune with a lot of the Sunnis and Kurds.

MARGARET WARNER: And, today, I gather he went on television and was blaming the Sunnis for this attack.

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Yes, absolutely.

I mean, he exercised no restraint. He went on TV. And he was blaming in particular another Sunni Arab politician whose newspaper had published recent articles alleging that this particular mosque was being used to house Sunni prisoners and possibly torture Sunni prisoners. And he went on the air and lambasted this politician about this article.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, yesterday, there was a car bomb, as we know, in Najaf, that killed 10 people near one of the holiest Shiite mosques there. Is there any evidence these two attacks are related?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: I — I think, on a conceptual level, they’re — they’re probably related. I think, you know, the people who are planning out these attacks are mapping out a general strategy, using the Internet and other informal means of communication. I don’t think that you could, at this point, pin down a definite command and — command structure or point to a specific event that — that sparked these two attacks.

MARGARET WARNER: Do authorities there — and I know it’s very early, but do they think this was the work of the insurgents or that this is part of sectarian violence?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: I think, generally, the authorities are in pretty much agreement that this was the work of Sunni Muslim insurgents. Generally, the — each group here has their signature. You — you know, you find 12 bodies with bullet — bullet holes to their head and handcuffs, and that’s the work of the militias.

You have simultaneous suicide bombs, that’s the work of either the Sunni insurgents or al Qaeda in Iraq.

MARGARET WARNER: And how are ordinary Shiites and Sunnis reacting to this, all this violence now in their midst?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Well, I think people are angry, and they’re afraid.

And it’s a very dangerous combination, because it just seems like everyone is gearing up for something, for some kind of conflict. And they couch it in very defensive terms.

Oh, we’re getting weapons and storing them in our mosques, in case we’re attacked. Oh, we’re, you know, setting up these neighborhood watch groups, in case we’re attacked.

But I think that, you know, maybe this is how a — an all-out civil war starts. Everyone is so afraid of each other, that they gear up with weapons and — and fear, and it becomes inevitable.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, Borzou Daragahi from The Los Angeles Times, thanks.

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Thank you.