A series of bombs killed 35 children and seven adults Thursday as U.S. troops handed out candy at a government ceremony to inaugurate a new sewage treatment plant. Hours earlier, a suicide blast killed a U.S. soldier and two Iraqis on the capital's outskirts.
The bombs in Baghdad's al-Amel neighborhood caused the largest death toll of children in any insurgent attack since the conflict in Iraq began 17 months ago.
"The Americans called us, they told us, 'Come here, come here,' asking us if we wanted sweets. We went beside them, then a car exploded," said 12-year-old Abdel Rahman Dawoud, lying naked in a hospital bed with shrapnel embedded all over his body.
Two bombs went off in quick succession at the ceremony about 1 p.m., then were followed by a third explosion a short distance away, said Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman. He said there were two suicide car bombs and one roadside bomb; the Americans said all three were car bombs.
The explosions killed 42 people and wounded 141, including 10 U.S. soldiers. The wounded included 72 children under the age of 14, said Dr. Mohammed Salaheddin.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he was disturbed by the televised images of the attacks, and he denounced the "criminal gangs, terrorists or Saddamists who are trying to undermine iraq, to undermine the political process."
He also said the ongoing violence showed how important it was to quickly train Iraqi military and security forces and improve intelligence gathering so the country does not fall to control of militants.
"The Iraqi people have suffered enough at the hands of these people," Zebari said on CNN, speaking from London. "We want a new Iraq, a different Iraq."
The day of violence across Iraq, including insurgent attacks and U.S. airstrikes in Fallujah, left a total of 46 people dead and 208 wounded.
In other recent developments:
Also Thursday, the Arab news network Al-Jazeera showed video of 10 new hostages seized in Iraq by militants. Al-Jazeera said the 10 -- six Iraqis, two Lebanese and two Indonesian women — were taken by The Islamic Army in Iraq, a group that has claimed responsibility for seizing two French journalists.
A Lebanese official later said kidnappers had released one Lebanese captive, although it was not clear if he was among the 10.
In the al-Amel bombings, grief-stricken parents wailed over the bodies of their children at the Yarmouk Hospital morgue. One woman tore at her hair before pulling back the sheet covering her dead brother and kissing him.
One man carried his younger brother — both legs bandaged — to the hospital, where some children were put two to a bed because of the many wounded. Outside, women sat on the ground and wept as they awaited news about their children.
The hospital received 42 bodies — including those of 35 children
and 131 wounded, said Iyhsan Nasser, head of the facility's statistics department.
At the site of the blasts, body parts were strewn in the streets amid pools of blood. A U.S. helicopter evacuated some of the wounded while other aircraft circled overhead and soldiers sealed off the area.
Lt. Col. Jim Hutton, spokesman for the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division, said 10 American soldiers were among the wounded.
American troops were taking part in the ceremony to inaugurate the sewage plant, said Maj. Phil Smith, another division spokesman, calling the attacks "despicable." Officials earlier had said a U.S. convoy was passing through the area.
Smith said the first two explosions targeted the ceremony, while the third was aimed at a nearby Iraqi National Guard checkpoint.
The children were at the ceremony because the school year in Iraq has not yet begun.
"This attack was carried out by evil people who do not want the Iraqis to celebrate and don't want (reconstruction) projects in Iraq," said Iraqi National Guard Lt. Ahmad Saad.
Hours earlier, a suicide car bomber struck in the Abu Ghraib area outside of Baghdad, killing the American soldier and at least two Iraqis, and wounding 60, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.
That bomb targeted a compound housing the mayor's office, a police station and other buildings, police 1st Lt. Ahmed Jawad said. A U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle parked in front of the compound was hit, Hutton said.
Al-Jazeera's video of the latest hostages showed three captives, who were not identified, and two masked men pointing weapons at them. There was no mention of demands by the militants or when or where they were captured. The network said the 10 were employees of the Jib electricity company.
Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal, Iraq's deputy interior minister in charge of intelligence, later confirmed that two Lebanese had been kidnapped along with a group of others that included women.
On Wednesday, video surfaced of British hostage Kenneth Bigley, believed held by Zarqawi's group, Tawhid and Jihad, pleading for help behind the bars of a makeshift cage and begging Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Have some compassion. Only you can save me now."
The sobbing, 62-year-old Bigley urged Blair to meet the demands of his captors, which are the release of all female prisoners in Iraq. He accused Blair of lying about efforts to secure his release.
"My life is cheap. He doesn't care about me. I am just one person," the civil engineer said. "I want to go home. Please, Mr. Blair, don't leave me here."
Later Thursday, Blair ruled out negotiating with Bigley's kidnappers but said his government would do what it could to aid his release.
"I am not sitting here saying, 'If they get in contact with us then we are just going to refuse to do anything,"' Blair told the British Broadcasting Corp.
"We will do whatever we can. In fact, there is a lot that we are trying to do, which I won't go into. But we are trying to do whatever we possibly can."
The tape was the second in a week to surface showing Bigley appealing for help. Tawhid and Jihad beheaded two American hostages seized with him Sept. 16 and warned he will be the next to die unless its demands are met.
More than 140 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq and at least 26 have been killed.