Scores Killed as Iraq Advances to Asian Cup Final

At least 50 people are dead and more than 100 wounded in twin car bombs.

January 8, 2009, 12:22 AM

July 25, 2007 — -- As the Iraqi national soccer team's dream run in the Asian Cup finals continues, so too does the violent nightmare in Baghdad. Suicide bombers killed 50 people and wounded 105 in the aftermath of Iraq's improbable semifinal victory over South Korea at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Malaysia late Wednesday.

Civilians flooded the dangerous Baghdad streets as they had on Sunday and in the week past to celebrate the multiethnic national team's progress -- which placed them for the first time ever in the showpiece match of Asia's premiere tournament.

In Kuala Lumpur, as the sounds of celebratory gunfire back home had not yet given way to more malignant forces, Iraqi coach Jorvan Vieira was nearly at a loss for words. "My boys have worked very hard," the normally talkative Brazilian told the gathered press. "Everyone is happy and we have reason to be happy because this victory brings us to the final and we deserve that," he said.

"We are in the final now," he said, as if speaking to the Iraqi people as a whole, "we are still here and you have to support us for one more game. I'm very happy. It's difficult to say what I think at this moment."

The game itself was physical and full of opportunities despite the 0-0 scoreline after 120 minutes. The normally unbearable tension of a penalty shootout was only amplified in Baghdad, where gunfire fire punctuated each Iraqi shootout goal. The teams converted their first six attempts before Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri Abbas tipped wide South Korea's fourth shot. Kim Jung-woo went last for the Koreans and when his kick struck Sabri's right post, the match was over. Iraq had won.

Television feeds of the game showed Iraqi players sprinting deliriously toward their supporters, then wrapping themselves in the dozens of flags that had been waving throughout the match.

"The game was 50 – 50," Vieira said in his postgame press conference. "We were tired, too, but Korea were more tired than us."

In Baghdad AK-47s set on full automatic erupted into the air as the last Korean effort clattered off the post. Local television dropped the match report to show Iraqis pouring into the streets. Along with the guns, they brought the Iraq flag -- black, white, and red with green lettering -- with them into the madness. The Associated Press reported that celebrations reached as far north as Kurdistan, the separatist region in the north, which, if only for a moment, had united with all of the country.

Chants of "Iraq, Iraq" were reported in the capital. But the spell was broken not an hour after it had been cast. A source with the Iraqi police told ABC News that 10 people were killed and 20 wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in the capital's western Mansour neighborhood. The car was believed to have targeted people celebrating the team's Malaysian glory.

An Associated Press report has upped the total of wounded in that attack to 60, and revealed that another bomber struck 45 minutes after the first attack in the eastern district of Ghadeer. Officials told the AP that 16 people were killed in the second strike.

Iraq's impossible quest for the Asian Cup will last at least another 90 minutes. They will face Saudi Arabia, who beat Japan in the second semifinal match, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday.

ABC'S Mike Tuggle in Baghdad and the Associated Press contributed to this story

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