More than a dozen explosions ripped through the Iraqi capital Wednesday, killing at least 152 people and wounding 542 in a deadly series of attacks that began with a huge suicide car bombing that targeted laborers assembled to find work for the day. Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility.
The bloodiest attack was the first, killing at least 88 people and wounding 227 in the heavily Shiite Kazimiyah neighborhood where the day laborers had gathered shortly after dawn. The bombings continued until about 4 p.m.
Overnight Wednesday, 17 men were executed in a village north of Baghdad, which put the death toll in all violence in and around the capital Wednesday at 169 and the number continued to rise, the AP reports.
A senior American military official told The Associated Press he believed the rash of bombings was retaliation for the joint Iraqi-U.S. sweep through the northern city of Tal Afar in recent days to evict insurgents from their stronghold near the Syrian border. Al-Jazeera television quoted al-Qaida as confirming that assessment.
"To the nation of Islam, we give you the good news that the battles of revenge for the Sunni people of Tal Afar began yesterday," said the al-Qaida statement posted on a militant Web site. It's authenticity could not be confirmed.
The blasts coincided with Iraqi lawmakers announcing the country's draft constitution was in its final form and would be sent to the United Nations for printing and distribution ahead of an Oct. 15 national referendum. Sunni Muslims, who form up the core of the insurgency, have vowed to defeat the basic law.
Wednesday's carnage was believed to be the second worst since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. A year later, on March 2, 2004, coordinated blasts from suicide bombers, mortars and planted explosives hit Shiite Muslim shrines in Karbala and in Baghdad, killing at least 181 and wounding 573.
U.S. Justice Department is acting behind the scenes to have Assange extradicted from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, and prosecuted in the U.S.