At least 72 people were killed in Baghdad yesterday when two female suicide bombers, each wearing long black cloaks to conceal explosives strapped to their bodies, blew themselves up at two bird markets.
The attacks were the deadliest in the Iraqi capital since 30,000 more US troops flooded into the centre of the country last spring.
People crowding around cages and boxes containing doves, pigeons, eagles and falcons at the popular Ghazil market in the city centre were torn apart by a bomb that was almost certainly the work of al- Qa'ida.
The bodies of victims, 45 dead and 82 injured, lay amid the shattered stalls and scorched carcasses of dead birds. Twenty minutes later, a second female bomber killed 27 people and wounded 67 at a market in the south-eastern suburb of Jadida.
There were unconfirmed reports that the bombers were both mentally impaired and their explosives were detonated remotely.
Al-Qa'ida has mounted a series of attacks in the past week, mostly targeting leaders of the Sunni tribal militia, al-Sahwah, which opposes al-Qa'ida. The bombing of Ghazil, in a predominantly Shia part of the city, will also have been aimed at provoking Shia retaliation against Sunni Muslims, who might then look again to al- Qa'ida for protection.
The Ghazil market takes place every Friday and is primarily for people who keep pet birds. This is common among Baghdadis, often very poor, who lavish care on their animals. There are also dogs for sale and for protection, as well as tropical fish in tanks and the occasional snake, monkey or exotic birds such as parrots. …