BAGHDAD, Iraq – A bomb hidden in a box holding pigeons tore through a crowded animal market Friday, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens, police said, in a blast that left the carcasses of dead birds, dogs and other creatures scattered on the blood-soaked ground.
The attack struck a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insisted there will be "no safe place in Iraq for terrorists," and a suicide car bombing in the Shiite neighborhood of Karradah. Police raised the casualty toll in that attack to 30 killed and 61 wounded.
Al-Maliki's comments came Thursday during a raucous session of parliament, with a heated exchange between the Shiite leader and Sunni legislator and cleric Abdul-Nasser al-Janabi, who accused the Shiite-dominated government of carrying out purges against Sunnis, the minority sect in Iraq.
The prime minister was seeking support for his and President Bush's plan to crush sectarian violence in Baghdad. Al-Maliki gave no details for the plan, which he named "Operation Imposing Law," nor did he say when it would begin.
U.S. officials have indicated the security operation, to which Bush has pledged an additional 21,500 American soldiers, should start in earnest about Feb. 1. A brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division already has arrived for the mission.
The explosive device detonated Friday at about 10 a.m. at the Souq al-Ghazl, which attracts buyers and sellers peddling birds, dogs, cats, sheep and goats and exotic animals such as snakes and monkeys.
Police and hospital officials said at least 14 people were killed and 62 were wounded.
A witness said a man arrived with an egg carton containing pigeons for sale, but it exploded after he walked away to get a drink, striking the potential buyers gathering around the box.
Raad Hassan, a frequent customer at the market, said he was about 60 yards away from the site of the blast.
"My friends and I rushed to the scene where we saw burned dead bodies, pieces of flesh and several dead expensive puppies and birds," he said.
Ali Nassir said dead animals were scattered on the blood-soaked ground and several snakes, monkeys and birds had been let loose from their cages as ambulances and police cars converged on the scene.
"The policemen are firing in the air in order to disperse the crowds of people arriving to find out what happened to relatives who were missing," he said. "The explosion was huge and happened in a crowded place."
An 18-year-old homing pigeon vendor who was wounded expressed frustration at the unrelenting violence in the capital.
"I went this morning to the animal market to earn some money and to entertain myself, instead I was hit by the explosion and lost consciousness, my pigeons and my mobile phone," Sajad Abdel-Jabar said from his hospital bed.
The attack occurred at one of the busiest times at the weekly market and was the latest in a series of bombings against busy commercial targets in the capital as suspected Sunni insurgents seek to maximize the number of casualties in pressing their campaign of violence before a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown gets started.
The al-Ghazl market, or Spinning Market, also was attacked in early June, when two bombings struck in quick succession, killing at least five people, as insurgents often strike commercial targets to maximize the casualties.
Meanwhile, street sweepers and trash collectors worked to clear the wreckage as cranes towed burned-out cars away after Thursday's bombing in Karradah, which left residents stunned as it was the second to hit the primarily Shiite neighborhood in two days.
Many Shiites in the neighborhood called for revenge against Sunnis and urged Iraq's spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to issue a fatwa allowing them to take it.
Police also found a bomb in the same area apparently targeting a Shiite procession that is part of the 10-day Ashoura festival, which marks the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most-revered Shiite saints.
The bomb could not be defused so police detonated the explosive device in a controlled blast, which damaged several stores.
Also Friday, a U.S. Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6 was killed in fighting in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said. The death raises to at least 3,070 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In other violence, seven tortured bodies of people who had been blindfolded and had their hands and legs bound before they were shot in the head in the capital, police said.
A former member of Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath Party and an interpreter who works for the U.S. military were killed in two separate drive-by shootings in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad.