NR: All hell breaks loose in Baghdad

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Length: 2:52

TONY HARRIS: And this just in to CNN. Mortar attacks going on right now in Baghdad. CNN's Michael Ware is there. Michael, what can you tell us?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, what I can tell you is that right behind me, just a couple of kilometers, there's a number of explosions and smoke plumes rising. The detonations are still going on as I'm speaking to you. There's another one right now.

We believe from where we are that these sound like impacts within an area known as Adhamiya. Now, this all fits into a bigger, hellish picture here in Baghdad today.

What we've seen is fury and rage erupt in Sadr City, the stronghold of the Mahdi Army. The explosions are continuing behind me, even as I'm talking. This is home to 2.5 to 3 million people loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Now, Americans went in there raiding this morning, looking for the missing soldier. There was some kind of an exchange, and a minibus was destroyed, some people killed and hurt.

But, what we had this afternoon, as we see, this area coming under full-blown assault. In the period of half an hour, three car bombs detonated in this densely populated ghetto. Mortar rounds impacted, killing even more as they came to the rescue.

At about the same time elsewhere in the city, the health ministry, controlled by the Mahdi Army militia, drawn from Sadr City, came under assault from what we're told is as many as 30 gunmen.

Now what we're having is what's going on behind me. Mortar rounds or explosions are impacting in a neighboring suburb known as Adhamiya. It seems that the people of Sadr City may now be retaliating.

But on the streets of that slum right now there's flame, there's blood and there's black plumes of smoke -- Tony.
HARRIS: Michael, you paint the picture of what's going on in Sadr City. You talk about the explosions going on not far from your position, all happening in this small window of time. It sort of begs the question: Is there a sense that all of this violence has been coordinated?

WARE: Well, certainly, in terms of the direct assault on the civilians of Sadr City, the three car bombs and the mortars -- absolutely, no question. Within 30 minutes, to have three car bombs in crowded marketplaces -- there's now shots going off just nearby -- there's a degree of coordination involved there.

Then we see an assault on a ministry controlled by the Sadrists. I mean, it certainly begs the question.

There is no Thanksgiving in Baghdad right now. Fury has erupted.

HARRIS: CNN's Michael Ware for us in Baghdad. Michael, thank you.

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TONY HARRIS: No holiday from the blood bath in Baghdad. Explosions rocking the city. Let's get right to CNN's Michael Ware live in the Iraqi capital. And, Michael, so much violence to talk about. Sadr City. Mortar rounds exploding near your location last hour. And, of course, there was an attack on a health ministry. But let's start with the violence in Sadr City.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, you're right. There's very little to give thanks for today here in the capital of Baghdad. It is erupted in violence here this afternoon. And as night is falling, we're hearing that from Sadr City the death count from three, possibly four car bombs this afternoon has risen to at least 100 people. And there may be as many as 200 wounded.

What we saw in the period of 30 minutes this afternoon is three of these car bombs explode in heavily crowded areas in Sadr City. Sadr City is a sprawling Shia ghetto, home to about 2.5 to 3 million people and a stronghold for the Mahdi army militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. On top of those car bombs came mortars. So that's why we have this horrific death toll which, sadly, we expect to rise.

Immediately following that, we saw mortars start to land in surrounding Sunni neighborhoods as if in retaliation. So we have neighborhood fighting neighborhood in what the U.S. military says is not civil war.

HARRIS: And, Michael, what can you tell us about this attack on the health ministry?

WARE: All right. Well, right now there's nothing to directly link it. But there's clearly a pattern emerging here. Around the same time as these coordinated car bombings in this Shia ghetto, we had an attack on the ministry of health building. The ministry of health is controlled by the same Shia group, by the Mahdi army and its political front, the Sadrist current.

So this is an attack on the same political faction, on the same Shia population. There we saw as many as 30 gunmen assault the Ministry of Health building with small arms fire and mortars. We're not hearing of any casualty reports out of that. But it seems that it has been a direct attack on the Shia population here this afternoon. And they're not standing idly by. They're throwing mortars back at Sunni neighborhoods.

HARRIS: OK. Michael Ware for us in Baghdad. What a day in Baghdad and throughout much of that city.

Michael, thank you.

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TONY HARRIS: Carnage in the Iraqi capital. Car bombs, massive explosions and a death toll on the rise.

Let's get you straight to CNN's Michael Ware, live in Baghdad.

Michael, three to four car bombs go off in Sadr City in a 30-minute time frame. Pick up the story from there, please.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, what we're just hearing now is that the death toll out of these car bombings, all within the period of 30 minutes this afternoon, targeting Shia civilians in the Sadr City ghetto, has reached at least 144. That makes it the single greatest attack, civilian attack since the war began.

There are hundreds of wounded, most of them, many of them critical. The ministry officials here, government officials here are telling us that they expect this death toll to rise. What we've seen here on a day where there's no thanks to be given whatsoever, is that at least three car bombs exploded within 30 minutes, in these crowded marketplaces, causing these terrible casualties. There's also reports of mortar or rocket attacks as well. We also now have further reports that there were other car bombings on the edge of this Shia ghetto, perhaps one, perhaps three more.

In retaliation, we've seen mortars lobbed into surrounding Sunni neighborhoods. So we now have one neighborhood attacking the other. This is a full-blown assault here in Iraq, though the U.S. military still says that this country is not in civil war.

HARRIS: And Michael, if you would, update us on the attack, if you would, on the Health Ministry building.

WARE: Yes, Tony. Well, while pictures are currently playing on Iraqi television, direct from the hospitals, showing terrible scenes of wounded children and men and women, what we also know is that, around the same time this afternoon as these terrible car bombs, there was an organized assault in the heart of the capital on the Ministry of Health building. This is a ministry that is also controlled by the same Shia political and militia bloc whose population was attacked this afternoon in Sadr City.

From what we understand, as many as 30 gunmen laid siege or assaulted this ministry building with small arms fire and mortar fire. We have no current figures on any casualties from that.

So there has been a vicious strike against the Shia population this afternoon, and we're seeing retaliatory mortar fire into surrounding Sunni neighborhoods.

HARRIS: And Michael, can you explain why the lights are out behind you?

WARE: That the lights are out? Well, this is Baghdad. There's barely any electricity at the best of times, and now really isn't a time or a moment to be illuminating one's self.

I mean, as I stand here, as the expatriates here sit down to any kind of Thanksgiving dinner, there's still the sound of explosions around us. There's the sound of gunfire. There's the sporadic noise of American jet fighters buzzing overhead, and there's explosions.

So this is not a time to be lighting anything.

HARRIS: All right, Michael. Be safe.

CNN's Michael Ware for us in Baghdad.

Michael, thank you.