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Baghdad Bombings Kill Scores of Iraqis

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

As Iraqi leaders gathered to resume negotiations on a constitution today, the lull in insurgent attacks ended. More than 40 people were killed and scores injured in three apparently coordinated bombings in Baghdad. Two of the attacks targeted a crowded bus station in rush hour. Elsewhere in Iraq, 11 members of the Iraqi security services were killed. And the US military says two more American soldiers were killed today. There's also new information about a shootout that occurred yesterday in the capital involving American troops in which Iraqi civilians were hurt. For the details on the day's events, we're joined by NPR's Philip Reeves in Baghdad.

Philip, first of all, what's the latest news on the bombings in Baghdad?

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

Well, they've been clearing up this afternoon after these attacks, which are the biggest in recent weeks. As you say, there were three bombs, one outside the bus station--that was a suicide car bomb, and that seems to have targeted the police--and then one inside this very crowded bus station at the height of rush hour. This is a very large terminal, one of the biggest in Baghdad, where people come to catch buses and taxis to go outside the capital, and a bomb in a parked car detonated and caused total havoc and chaos. And then there was a third bomb on the road to the hospital, the nearby Kindi Hospital. So as people were ferrying the wounded there, they were themselves attacked. And among the dead, there were medics and policemen and, of course, civilians.

NORRIS: Now we're also hearing claims from the Iraqis that an American helicopter opened fire on civilians in Baghdad. What do you know about that, Philip?

REEVES: Well, this is a rather mystifying incident. The Iraqi officials are saying that more than 20 civilians were injured when American forces, including a combat helicopter, opened fire on them in the middle of Baghdad in the early hours of yesterday morning. The US military has issued a statement about it, and this says that an undetermined number of civilians were hurt, but it says it happened during a firefight, which began when an American patrol in Baghdad was attacked by insurgents in the early hours. During this firefight, US helicopters, it said, trapped and engaged the insurgents. And in the statement, the US says that--the US military says that the incident's being investigated and it says that it regrets any civilian deaths or injuries that may have happened.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry has said that the people who were injured were Iraqi laborers, some of whom were sleeping on a roof, and that the bullets that were fired to them came not only from a helicopter, but also from a Humvee.

NORRIS: This violence comes at a very delicate time. Iraq's political rivals are making a fresh effort to nail down a constitution. There are deep divisions, sharp disagreements. What impact do these events have on these fragile negotiations?

REEVES: Well, you're right. I mean, it is very delicate politically at the moment; it always is in Iraq, but especially at this moment while they're trying to hammer out a constitution. And, you know, it's already had an impact on that in the sense that it's drawn angry words from a leading Sunni Arab group, the Muslim Scholars Association, which has issued a statement saying that it's astonished that those who want to write the constitution--and this is a reference to the Americans--and claim that they protect the rights of the Iraqis could not--you know, could carry out or be involved in such an attack.

The talks are continuing. There's a blizzard of different explanations as to why the deadline was extended from last Monday to next Monday and as to whose fault it was. The situation's been complicated further by a statement from the largest Sunni Arab political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party. Now it's issued a statement which criticizes the committee that's drafting the constitution. It calls it biased and chaotic, and accuses it of trying to divert discussions away from Sunni Arab objections over whether Iraq should be a federal state, which the Sunni Arabs fear, of course, would split the country. So at the moment, the prospects of achieving a constitution within the next few days do not seem awfully hopeful.

NORRIS: Philip, thanks so much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

NORRIS: NPR's Philip Reeves, speaking to us from Baghdad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.