A minibus exploded today in a Baghdad market, killing at least six people &
a brutal reminder of the dangers facing Iraqis, who only hours ago were joyously united after their underdog national soccer team won the prestigious Asian Cup.
The U.S. military also said three soldiers had been killed in fighting in Anbar province west of Baghdad on Thursday. The deaths raised to at least 3,651 members of the U.S. military who have died since the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to a count by The Associated Press.
At least 93 people were killed or found dead across Iraq over the last two days.
In political developments, the largest Sunni Arab bloc said the government's response to its demands and threat to pull out of the Cabinet this week slammed the door to reforms.
The Iraq Accordance Front, which has six Cabinet members and 44 of parliament's 275 seats, has suspended its membership in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government and threatened to quit altogether this week if he doesn't meet certain demands.
The move would plunge the U.S.-backed government deeper into crisis as parliament prepares to begin a monthlong break in August without passing key legislation demanded by Washington to promote national unity and stem support for the Sunni-led insurgency.
The government has called the threat blackmail and said the Sunni bloc had contributed in creating some of the very policies it now criticized.
The Accordance Front said today that al-Maliki does not seem to have any intention of dealing constructively with their demands, which include a pardon for detainees not charged with specific crimes and the disbanding of militias.
"He is simply slamming shut the door for reform, and in the light of that the front will be justified if it goes ahead with its plan to quit the government," it said in a statement.
Black smoke rose into the air after the blast struck a transit point near Tayaran Square at about — p.m., damaging several cars and kiosks selling clothes, fruit and juice, police and hospital officials said. The minibus was waiting for passengers heading to predominantly Shiite areas in eastern Baghdad.
At least 31 people were wounded in addition to the six killed, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
The bombing came hours after the expiration of a vehicle ban imposed in the capital and several other cities Sunday ahead of Iraq's soccer final against Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup. Iraq won the championship 1-0 and tens of thousands of Iraqis poured into the streets for largely peaceful celebrations, welcoming the unexpected victory in a show of pride and unity.
Iraqi newspapers splashed pictures of the team and banner headlines on their front pages today.
"The team's victory showed the determination of Iraqis who, God willing, will be crowned with victory in the fight against terrorism and the enemies of Iraq," the government-run al-Sabah newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
Within seconds of the final whistle, celebratory gunfire echoed across Baghdad and elsewhere despite a government ban. Authorities said in Baghdad alone, at least five people were killed and nearly 30 wounded by gunfire after the game.
There were no reports of bombings such as those that killed at least 50 and wounded dozens in Baghdad during celebrations of Iraq's semifinal win over South Korea on Wednesday. But bombings, shootings and mortar attacks striking other targets killed at least 58 people nationwide on Sunday.
About two dozen masked gunmen also bombed a Shiite shrine that had a reputation for healing powers in a volatile Sunni area north of Baghdad late Sunday, police said. The attack flattened the building and destroyed the shrine.
Witnesses said it followed warnings by extremists that the mosque would be targeted if faithful continued to bring their sick to the building to be cured.
The shrine was guarded by Sunnis and visited by followers of both Islamic sects, residents said.
Scattered violence also was reported elsewhere, including a roadside bomb that killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded three in a predominantly Sunni area in northwestern Baghdad and a mortar barrage against a market south of Baghdad that killed one civilian and wounded three others.
Northeast of the capital, dozens of suspected Sunni insurgents attacked a Sunni village south of Baqouba, killing 20 civilians and kidnapping others for not cooperating with them, a local police official said. He declined to be identified because he feared becoming a target. The attack began late Sunday and lasted through this morning, the officer said.
The report could not be independently confirmed
A series of shootings also killed four people in the disputed northern city of Kirkuk and nearby Hawija. The victims included a female official with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which is pressing for oil-rich Kirkuk to be incorporated into the autonomous Kurdish region despite opposition by Arabs and Turkomen.
Relief agencies said today about 8 million Iraqis &
nearly a third of the population &
need immediate emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Iraq war.
Those Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, said the report by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee network in Iraq.
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Thomas Wagner in London contributed to this report.
Minibus explosion kills 6