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Air raid kills 50 in Baghdad market

By Hassan Hafidh

Click to enlarge photo

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Distraught Iraqis have crowded into a hospital in a northern suburb of Baghdad, comforting or searching for scores of loved ones they say have been killed or injured in an air raid on a busy market.

Dr Osama Sakhari, speaking at Baghdad's Al Noor Hospital after a day of heavy raids across the capital, said he had counted 55 people killed and more than 47 wounded from the market in the city's Shula neighbourhood.

This Reuters correspondent personally counted five bodies in one of the hospital's morgue units, after an incident which could further undermine U.S. efforts to win Iraqi hearts and minds.

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said on Friday at least 58 people had been killed.

"The number of the casualties...is 58 martyrs and I believe there will be more and the number of people injured is very big," he told the al-Hayat-LBC Arabic television channel, denouncing the U.S.-led invasion force.

"My explanation for their increasing crimes against civilians is that they are feeling the weight of the series of defeats which we inflicted on them on the outskirts of the cities and in the desert."

Arabic language television stations al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya said rescuers were looking for more victims, and showed pictures of people carrying coffins out of the hospital.

Al-Jazeera's correspondent said: "An Iraqi official told us that the search is still going on for those trapped under the rubble." The television showed pictures of bodies, including those of two children.

ARAB ANGER

Television pictures of bodies and damage in Iraq have fuelled Arab anger against the U.S.-led invasion which Washington says is not aimed at ordinary Iraqis.

It says that the nine-day-old war is aimed at removing President Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership and ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad denies it has any such weapons.

Abu Dhabi television said U.S. cruise missiles may have hit the market and showed a gaping hole on one street and damaged cars.

The U.S. military blamed an earlier explosion in a Baghdad residential area on an errant Iraqi missile.

Jazeera showed pictures of bodies at the scene and in the hospital. It also showed an Iraqi woman hitting herself in the face repeatedly as she stared through a window at a wounded young man lying in a hospital bed. A group of men shouted "There is no God but God", as they stood beside an ambulance.

REPEATED AIR RAIDS

Explosions shook the outskirts of the city before midnight on Friday, in the latest of a series of air raids. U.S. and British bombs and missiles pounded the capital repeatedly on Friday in the heaviest day of raids since the war began.

Residents said eight people had died in a raid earlier on Friday on a Baath party office.

U.S. defence officials said a radar-avoiding B-2 stealth bomber had dropped two 4,600-pound (2,086-kg) bombs -- known as "bunker-busters" -- on a communications centre in downtown Baghdad. Iraqi satellite television went off the air.

A large fire blazed on the west bank of the Tigris river and thick, billowing smoke rose on the horizon after dozens of blasts in the eastern and southern fringes of the capital.

Iraqi defence positions spat anti-aircraft fire above the rooftops as U.S. missiles hit government offices, including the ministries of information, planning and foreign affairs.

The raids knocked out many telephone lines -- some of the first bombing damage to civilian infrastructure.

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