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Baghdad Blast Kills at Least 33 Shiite Laborers Yesterday

By Sabrina Tavernise
and John O’Neill



At least 33 Shiite laborers were killed and 59 were wounded in a bomb blast in Baghdad on Monday, as the American death toll in Iraq reached 100 for the month with the announcement by the military that a marine had been killed in al-Anbar province.

Four other bombs killed at least 10 people and wounded 26 around the capital Monday, and a geology professor who is a member of a Sunni political group was gunned down on his way to his college.

The outbreak of violence comes despite the hopes of American military officials that the killings, which increased during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, might slacken following its end last week.

The military said in a statement Monday that the Marine died on Sunday from wounds suffered in combat in al-Anbar, the western province where the Sunni insurgency is based. October has become the deadliest month for American forces in Iraq since January 2005, when 107 troops were killed.

Also Monday, Britain announced that it is relocating most of the civilian staff at its consulate in the southern city of Basra to the airport, because of security concerns about the city, news services reported.

“Given the threat to the safety of civilian staff, we have decided temporarily to reduce the number of staff at our compound,” Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said.

Britain has been handing responsibility for security in the Basra region over to Iraqi forces, and the level of the violence there has risen as Shiite groups vie with one another for control.

In Baghdad, Monday’s biggest blast came in Sadr City, the rundown neighborhood in the eastern part of Baghdad that has been the scene of some of the worst sectarian attacks by Sunni insurgents. It is also home to Shiite militias that have been linked to waves of attacks launched in reprisal.

The explosion there today struck a line of day laborers seeking work in Mudhafar Square. Iraqi officials said the bomb was hidden in a plastic bag placed in a garbage bin next to the line. One eyewitness, Abu Zeinad, told Agence France-Presse that it was the third time this year that the line had been attacked.

A spokesman for Interior Ministry, Brig. Gen. Abdel-Karim Khalaf, said that the blast was probably the work either of Al Qaeda or Sunni extremists known as takfiris, who have conducted outrageous attacks in the hope of provoking retaliation that further undermines the country’s fragile government.

“This has the fingerprints of the takfiris and Al Qaeda all over it,” he said, Agence France-Presse reported.

In addition to its continuing vulnerability to insurgent attacks, Sadr City has become the focal point of recent tensions between the American military and the Iraqi government. The district is the stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American cleric who is one of the most important backers of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. American officials have repeatedly pressed Maliki to crack down on the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to Sadr, which they blame for much of the sectarian violence in the capital.