BAGHDAD – A remote-controlled bomb exploded in the middle of a crowded Baghdad pet market Friday morning, killing at least 13 people, wounding 57, ending a two-month lull in major attacks in the Iraqi capital and raising fears that recent improvements in security may not last.
Sometime before 9 a.m., witnesses said, someone detonated an improvised bomb hidden in a pile of trash in the Ghazal Bazaar in central Baghdad, where salesmen gather once a week to sell birds, monkeys, tropical fish and other animals.
Afterward, witnesses described the dead lying among birds, snakes, rabbits, cats and dogs. Shop owners pulled out the injured on carts because the streets were too crowded for ambulances to pass. Others ran away, saying they feared a second attack.
In Warsaw, meanwhile, new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that the country would withdraw its approximately 900 troops from Iraq by the end of the year. The Poles, one of the largest contributors to the Multi-National Force in Iraq after the U.S. and Britain, lead a 10-nation contingent of about 2,000 soldiers in central-southern Iraq.
The pet market, which was last attacked Jan. 26, is one of the few places in Baghdad where crowds gather regularly, and Friday’s attack was the deadliest in the city since Sept. 26, when twin bombings killed at least 32 people in Bayaa, a mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood in western Baghdad.
People “come here just to forget their daily life routine. Some go to the park on Mutanbi Street and the rest come here,” said Ahmed Ali, 47, who owns a carpet shop a few feet from the bombing.
Even though violence in the capital has dropped, he said, “We were expecting this.”
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