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TOLL RISES IN ATTACKS ON IRAQI MARKETS

Officials say the bloody bombings are a sign of insurgent desperation.

Iraqi officials on Saturday raised the death toll from Friday's pet market bombings in Baghdad as more bodies were found and as badly injured people died from their wounds, bringing the total to 99 dead and 123 injured, according to the Interior Ministry.

Iraqi officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said 62 people died in the first blast at the central al-Ghazl pet bazaar and 37 others about 20 minutes later at the New Baghdad pigeon market in southeastern Baghdad.

The U.S. military, which gave a lower combined death toll of 27, blamed the attacks on al-Qaida in Iraq and said they signaled a new desperation as concrete blast barriers and other security measures have stanched the group's ability to stage deadly car bombings and similar attacks.

Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, the chief Iraqi military commander in Baghdad, described those who organized the bombing as increasingly desperate, without religious faith and killing "only to prove that they are here."

Iraqi officials said they had pictures of the two women's heads that were found at the scene that proved they had Down syndrome, and they said the explosives had been detonated by remote-control.

"This is very credible information," said Qanbar, adding the photos would not be released to the public because of humanitarian concerns.

Onlookers gathered at the pigeon market Saturday, peering through twisted metal into the charred remains of stalls and shops. Vendors sifted through ruined wares. One man held up a tattered piece of clothing, ripped apart by Friday's blast or in the frenzied panic that followed.

Haider Jabar, 28, a government employee who lives near the market and often strolls among the cages, said the woman used in that attack was a stranger to the locals.

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces raided two villages north of the capital on Saturday, killing seven suspected militants and arresting four others, police said. The U.S. military also said its forces killed one suspected militant and detained 13 in two days of raids across northern and central Iraq.

Near Samarra, Iraqi police killed four men and captured a senior aide to a leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, police said.

And near Tal Afar, Iraqi commandos killed three wanted men and arrested three others, said Brig. Gen. Ibrahim al-Jibouri, commander of Tal Afar police. Among those captured was a top figure in al-Qaida, accused of organizing militant operations in the western area of Mosul, Jibouri said.

Information from the New York Times and the Associated Press was used in this report.

FAST FACTS

Suicide bombers

Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad, on Saturday showed reporters photos of the two female bombers' heads, which typically are blown from the body in suicide attacks. He said the broad foreheads, flattened noses and almond-shaped eyes were all suggestive of Down's syndrome.

"These two women were likely used because they didn't understand what was happening and they were less likely to be searched," Hammond said. He acknowledged that there was no other evidence of their mental condition.

However, Bob Lamburne, director of forensic services for the British Embassy in Baghdad, said drawing such conclusion was dangerous."The diagnosis would have to be more scientific than that," Lamburne said.

McClatchy Newspapers

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