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Anger over deadly Baghdad arms cache explosions

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Munzen Sabr Hassoun had thought the war was over. But as he sat in a blood spattered robe at a window in Zafaraniyah hospital Saturday morning, heaving with sobs while medical workers laid his wife's body in a plywood coffin outside, peace was more painful.

Mr. Hassoun's wife was among the at least six people killed and some 50 injured when a huge collection of captured Iraqi weapons and munitions exploded at a US base on the outskirts of Baghdad early on Saturday morning, provoking deep anger among local residents.

The blast, which caused the worst civilian injuries in the capital since US troops arrived here, hurled fireballs of shells and grenades high into the air, witnesses said, and launched at least one missile into a nearby residential district.

US officials said the explosion was caused by unknown men who fired incendiary flares into the munitions collection and disposal facility at about eight o'clock on Saturday morning. None of the men was caught, and the explanation could not be independently verified. One US soldier was reported wounded in a firefight with the attackers.

The mood in the poverty-stricken streets of Zafaraniyah was angry, as residents blamed the American military for the deadly barrage that rained on their village.

"This disaster is more than happened during the war," said Ghazi Fahed, director of the local hospital, where victims' bodies lay wrapped in blankets on gurneys in the courtyard. "During the war we did not see anything as horrible as this."

The weapons dump that went up in a series of massive explosions was one of three main facilities around Baghdad where US troops have been gathering Iraqi munitions and destroying them in controlled detonations. It contained small arms, munitions, howitzer rounds and other weaponry including Frog 7 missiles, according to Lt. Col. Jack Kammerer, the local zone commander.


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