RAY SUAREZ: Robert Worth, welcome. By the end of the day in Baghdad how many attacks had there been in all?
ROBERT WORTH: It's about a dozen car bombs as well as some ambushes by gunmen, certainly more attacks then we've seen in many, many months.
RAY SUAREZ: Were the emergency services and hospital systems able to keep up with all that dead and wounded?
ROBERT WORTH: Well, not really. They were just driving around wildly throughout the day firing their guns. The hospital was pretty overwhelmed. We had bombs going off it seemed like every half hour for a while and certainly it tested everybody to their breaking point.
RAY SUAREZ: It seems like the number of wounded was very large in comparison to the number of dead. Was there something about the way the attacks were carried out that resulted in that high number of casualties?
ROBERT WORTH: It's hard to say. The main bombing took place in Kadamia, a Shiite neighborhood and it killed 112 people but it was in open area, sort of intersection at a big public square where laborers gather in the morning and presumably shrapnel spread in a very, very wide radius. And that may be the reason that the wounds are so high.
RAY SUAREZ: The claim of responsibility following not that much after?
ROBERT WORTH: Yes. That's right. There had been warnings before from a couple of different terrorist groups saying that they were going to take revenge for Tal Afar, the big military offensive that took place over the weekend but soon after it took place, Zarqawi's group, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, took credit and, in fact, since then, the Zarqawi group has released another statement, a highly unusual statement; it's actually an audiotape by Zarqawi in which he's declaring publicly war on the Shiites of Iraq.
He has indicated before that he regards Shiites as apostates, like many, very very extreme Islamists do, but he's never been quite this direct or public about it.
RAY SUAREZ: So declaring war on the Shiites, were many of the bombs in heavily Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad?
ROBERT WORTH: Yes, indeed. That's often been true in the past and it was true today. The worst bomb, the one that killed 112 was in Kadamia, which is a Shiite neighborhood; it's named for the shrine of Kada, a Shiite holy figure, and it's the same neighborhood where the stampede took place two weeks ago that killed almost 1,000 people. Of course, that was not a terrorist attack but it was provoked by rumors of a suicide bomber. And then we had a second bombing today in a Shiite neighborhood that killed four people. So there's no question that he is targeting Shiites.
RAY SUAREZ: And these claims that have purported to be from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have they ever been, have they usually been authenticated; are they taken seriously as being from him?
ROBERT WORTH: Yes. American military officials do take it seriously. They think he has a wide network and they seem to think that he's generally genuine. He works with a number of other terrorists groups like Ansar Al Suna, the victorious army of Iraq, and it's sometimes hard to tell whether he's taking credit for what is a much sort of broader organization or whether it's people who are loyal directly to him.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, a very violent day for civilians in Iraq. Were there also a number of attacks on American forces?
ROBERT WORTH: Yeah. There were several attacks on American convoys and also on Iraqi police patrols and army patrols. That's the kind of attack we've been seeing a lot for virtually every day for the past few weeks. What we haven't seen is these devastating attacks on civilians which seem, again, to be directly linked to the Tal Afar operation.
RAY SUAREZ: Let's turn for a moment to the state of play in the constitutional negotiations. Have there been any developments there?
ROBERT WORTH: Yeah. Well, Hussein Shahristani, who is the deputy speaker of the national assembly, announced today that they had a final complete draft, which includes some amendments to the one that was presented to the country's parliament about two and a half weeks ago.
These are not major changes. And these changes are small; they have to do with things like water rights, the number of deputy prime ministers. The most important one touches on Iraq's Arab identity, which was something of a sore point for Sunni Arabs. But there they've reached a kind of compromise which we're told is not likely to placate the Sunnis.
RAY SUAREZ: So what's the next step? Have any Sunni leaders come out and said basically this isn't enough as Iraq is heading toward a referendum on this constitution?
ROBERT WORTH: Yes, some of them have come out and said that they still oppose the constitution, that these amendments, these small changes are not going to make much difference. That doesn't come as a great surprise. But, you know, the final approval of this amended version does take it a step forward because the document has not yet been printed. When it was presented to parliament, there was expectation that it would be quite rapidly printed up; the plans are for 5 million copies to be distributed across Iraq.
That didn't happen because there were efforts to reach a fuller compromise. But now that those appear to have failed at least the document can get out there and Iraqis can look at it before the referendum.
RAY SUAREZ: Robert Worth of the New York Times, thanks for being with us.