143 and counting in the middle of the bushie back slappers, it's no suprise this thread hadn't already been started if you guys could only see yourselves.... Blasts Kill 143 at Iraq Shiite Shrines By TAREK AL-ISSAWI and HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writers KARBALA, Iraq - Simultaneous explosions ripped through crowds of worshippers Tuesday at Shiite Muslim shrines in Baghdad and Karbala, killing at least 143 people on the holiest day of the Shiite calendar, a U.S. general said. It was the bloodiest day since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Blasts Kill 143 at Iraq Shiite Shrines A "prime suspect" in the attacks was al-Qaida-linked militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who U.S. officials claim is trying to start a Sunni-Shiite civil war, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt. In Iran, which lost at least 22 countrymen in the attacks, Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi also blamed al-Qaida. The attacks, a combination of suicide bombings and planted explosives during the Shiite festival of Ashoura, coincided with a shooting attack on Shiite worshippers in Quetta, Pakistan, that killed at least 42 people and wounded more than 150. Police in the southern city of Basra kept the wave of violence from being even bloodier, arresting four would-be suicide bombing suspects two women wearing explosive belts during a Shiite procession and two men in connection with a car bomb discovered before it blew up. Monday night, a bomb was defused in the holiest Shiite city, Najaf, officials said. Tuesday was the climax of the 10-day Ashoura festival, which marks the killing of Shiite saint Imam Hussein in a 7th century battle. It is the most important period in the Shiite calendar and draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and other Shiite communities. The devastation Tuesday included the work of three suicide bombers who set off explosives in and around Baghdad's Kazimiya shrine, killing 58 and wounding 200, Kimmitt told reporters. In Karbala, at least one suicide attacker blew himself up and pre-set explosives detonated, killing 85 and wounding more than 230, he said. A fourth suicide bomber whose explosives did not detonate was captured at Kazimiya, and six people were arrested in connection with the attack in Karbala, Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad. Iraqi police also arrested four would-be suicide bombers in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Tuesday. Two men a Syrian and an Iraqi were arrested after a car bomb was found outside the Seyed Ali al-Musawi Mosque. Later in the day, police arrested two women who were wearing explosives-laden belts as they marched in a procession to mark Ashoura. The bombings produced a wave of Shiite outrage much of it directed at U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital. U.S. soldiers who arrived at Kazimiya were attacked by angry crowds throwing stones and garbage, injuring two Americans. "This is the work of Jews and American occupation forces," blared a loudspeaker outside the Kazimiya shrine. Inside, cleric Hassan Toaima told an angry crowd, "We demand to know who did this so that we can avenge our martyrs." U.S. intelligence officials have long been concerned about the possibility of militant attacks during Ashoura. Last month, U.S. officials released what they said was a letter by al-Zarqawi outlining a strategy of spectacular attacks on Shiites, aimed at sparking a Sunni-Shiite civil war in order to disrupt U.S. plans to hand over power to the Iraqis on June 30. Mouwafak al-Rubaie, a Shiite member of the Iraqi Governing Council, said Tuesday's attacks bore al-Zarqawi's fingerprints. "This is a message from Zarqawi to the Iraqi people and we received the message. It is written in blood now," al-Rubaie told CNN. Abtahi, Iran's vice president for legal and parliamentary affairs, posted a message on his personal Web site blaming al-Qaida. "The reactionary al-Qaida terror group reached a conclusion ... that they have two enemies: the United States as the political enemy and Shiites as the ideological enemy," Abtahi said. At least 22 Iranian pilgrims were killed and 69 others wounded in the explosions in Karbala, Iranian Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said. Khanjani said some victims in the Kazimiya explosions in Baghdad also were Iranian, but he had no figures. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the United States and its allies were "responsible for security" for the pilgrims. Iranians by the tens of thousands have flooded across the common border with Iraq since Saddam's ouster, able to visit the most important Shiite shrines for the first time in decades. Shiism dominates Iran, which is governed by a Shiite theocracy. Religious leaders there have considerable influence in Iraq. In a show of unity, Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish council representatives appeared before journalists, calling on Iraqis to maintain calm "in order to cheat our enemies of the chance to inflict evil on the nation." The council declared three days of mourning and was considering delaying the signing of an interim constitution, which had been planned for Thursday, U.S. coalition spokesman Dan Senor said. Also Tuesday, insurgents threw a grenade into a U.S. Army Humvee as it drove down a Baghdad road, killing one 1st Armored Division soldier and wounding another. The death brings to 548 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the United States launched the Iraq war in March. Most have died since President Bush declared an end to active combat on May 1. In Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, five large blasts went off shortly after 10 a.m. near the golden-domed shrine of Imam Hussein and another shrine. The explosions hurled bodies in all directions and sent crowds of pilgrims fleeing in panic. Dead and wounded were loaded onto wooden carts normally used to ferry elderly pilgrims around holy sites. Bodies ripped apart by the force of the blasts lay on the streets. At about the same time, three explosions went off inside and outside Baghdad's Kazimiya shrine, which contains the tombs of two other saints. Panicked men and women dressed in black fled, screaming and weeping, as ambulances raced to the scene. Crowds of enraged survivors swarmed nearby hospitals, some blaming Americans for stirring up religious tensions by launching the war, others blaming al-Qaida or Sunni extremists. Stone-throwing Iraqis attacked U.S. Army medics trying to help wounded at Kazimiya, driving the U.S. troops back into their high-walled compound then trying to storm the gates. Soldiers threw smoke grenades and fired shotguns into the air to drive away the mob. Before Ashoura, U.S.-led coalition officials said they were increasing security in Shiite areas. Polish troops patrol the Karbala region. Kimmitt said that while U.S. troops usually set up an "outer cordon" around such high-security events, they stay far away from holy sites like shrines as mosques out of respect for the faithful. However, Sheik Hamed Khafaf, a spokesman for Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini, accused American soldiers of not doing enough to improve security. The Kazimiya blasts went off inside the shrine's ornately tiled walls and outside in a square packed with street vendors catering to pilgrims. The courtyard inside was strewn with torn limbs and picnic baskets. The streets outside were littered by thousands of shoes and sandals belonging to worshippers who had been praying inside. The Najaf shrine, near where the bomb was defused Monday night, was attacked on Aug. 29 by a massive car bomb that killed more than 85 people, including Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim. while i concur that these attacks are barbaric and heinous, and i WHOLEHEARTEDLY DISAGREE with them, they are reality. still waiting for that endgame, guys. and i won't hold my breath.