Car bomb kills 35 and wounds 80 in Baghdad

A car bomb killed at least 35 people and wounded 80 on Sunday next to a crowded market in a Shi’ite district of Baghdad which has been a repeated target of attacks blamed on Sunni Muslim al-Qaeda.

Bystanders used blankets to carry the dead and wounded onto pick-up trucks. The bomb tore off the fronts of shops and destroyed cars.

The explosion was next to a crowded market in the Bayaa district. Markets are a favourite target of carbombers.

”What did these innocent people do to get killed in a car bomb? Where is the government? … Where is security? Let the government come and see this situation,” said one man, angrily gesticulating at the scene.

United States and Iraqi forces launched a major security crackdown in Baghdad nearly three months ago. The offensive has reduced sectarian death squad killings, but car bombs still plague the city.

North of the capital, two suicide car bombers attacked police positions in Samarra, killing eight people in apparently coordinated attacks in which gunmen also fired mortar bombs, police and army sources said.

Abdullah Jubara, the deputy governor of Salahaddin province, said Abdul Jalil Naji, Samarra’s police commander, was killed in one of the attacks, which took place at a police checkpoint at the city’s entrance.

Insurgents fighting the Shi’ite-led government and 150 000 US troops in Iraq have switched tactics and stepped up coordinated attacks against Iraqi and US security bases.

Salahaddin province is a Sunni Arab insurgent hotbed.

Suspected al-Qaeda militants blew up a revered Shi’ite shrine in Samarra in February 2006, unleashing a wave of sectarian violence that has killed thousands and driven Iraq to the brink of civil war.

US President George Bush is sending 30 000 extra troops to Iraq for the security offensive in Baghdad.

A US military spokesperson, Major-General William Caldwell, said those reinforcements would all be in place by June 1.

The offensive aims to give Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki time to push through the laws, restore government services and adopt other measures to heal divisions between majority Shi’ites and minority Sunni Arabs who were dominant under Saddam Hussein. – Reuters

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