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Monday, 4 February 2008

Baghdad’s fragile peace was shattered yesterday when explosives strapped to two women with Down’s syndrome were detonated by remote control in crowded pet markets, killing at least 91 people in the worst attacks that the capital had experienced for almost a year.

Iraqi and American officials blamed al-Qaeda, and accused the terrorist organisation of plumbing new depths of depravity. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, said that al-Qaeda’s use of mentally-handicapped women as bombers showed that it had “no political programme here that is acceptable to a civilised society and that this is the most brutal and the most bankrupt of movements”.

Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador, said: “There is nothing they won’t do if they think it will work in creating carnage and the political fallout that comes from that.”

Al-Qaeda has increasingly used women as suicide bombers in recent weeks but this would be the first known case of its triggering their explosives through remote control. “We found the mobiles used to detonate the women,” Major-General Qassim Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman, said. He said that both women had Down’s syndrome. Times