BAGHDAD, Iraq - Families of the 35 children who died in a string of bombings in Baghdad blamed American troops for the tragedy, accusing them of attracting insurgents to a ceremony where the attacks occurred.
By Friday, tents had sprung up in the el-Amel neighborhood in Baghdad to accommodate mourners who gathered to share their grief from the Thursday attack. In the carnage, several explosions ripped into a crowd gathered to celebrate the inauguration of a new, much needed sewage plant.
Residents said that before the start of the celebration, U.S. soldiers called upon the children through loudspeakers to join the crowd, promising them sweets. There were an unusually large number around because the long school holidays were nearing an end.
A woman laments the lack of security as a coffin carrying the body of a child is taken for burial in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday Oct. 1, 2004. A string of bombs killed 35 children and wounded scores of others as U.S. troops handed out candy Thursday at a government sponsored celebration to inaugurate a new sewage plant. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
"I blame the Americans for this tragedy. They wanted to make human shields out of our children. They should have kept the children away from danger," said Abdel-Hadi al-Badri, a cleric a the al-Mubashroun al-Ashra mosque, breaking down in tears during Friday prayers.
Al-Badri's son lost his right leg in the explosion after he ignored his father's warnings to stay away from the U.S. troops.
"The Americans are the first terrorists and the people who carried out the attack are the second terrorists," he added. It was the largest number of children killed in any single insurgent attack since the conflict erupted 17 months ago.
Al-Badri's is a common lament here. Confronted by daily bombings, kidnappings, deadly crossfires and soaring violent crime, many Iraqis blame most of their ills on the Americans. Many say that they and their children would not be dying today had the U.S. not invaded their country 17 months ago.
About 100 yards from the site of two of the three explosions, a large red and yellow tent was filled with mourners for two sisters, Raghad Dharar, 12, and Meisoun Dharar,10, who were killed as they returned from a nearby market.
"The day before yesterday, I bought them new school dresses and I was planning to buy them shoes. I did not know that they were not going ever to attend again," the father said.
Dharar Ahmed, a policeman, said that there was no reason to stage a large celebration for a small sewage plant that was already partially operating.
"The Americans were attracting the children by offering sweets. They should not have done this," he said amid the sounds of wailing women.
Troops are frequently approached by Iraqi children asking for candy, pens and other handouts, and the soldiers often oblige, either because they hope to win some hearts and minds or simply because the youngsters are appealing or clearly impoverished.
In another tent, Najam Hussein was weeping over his child Ali Najam who was killed in the explosion minutes after he joined the celebration.
Hussein, who sells chandeliers, said nobody in the neighborhood had expecting the tragedy that scythed down so many innocent children.
"Blaming any party will not bring back my dead son. It seems that 25 million people will die before the democracy is achieved in this country," he said.
© Copyright 2004 Associated Press