A car bomb ripped through a wholesale food market in western Baghdad on Sunday, flattening cars and shops and killing at least 30 people in the deadliest of a wave of attacks across Iraq that left at least 54 people dead.
The attack came amid an 11-week-old crackdown by U.S.-led forces intended to bring stability to Baghdad.
The blast, which erupted about noon in the mixed Sunni-Shiite Baiyaa neighborhood, devastated the market, reducing cars and trucks to their charred skeletons and ripping the roofs and exteriors off of shops. In addition to the dead, dozens of others were injured.
Pools of blood gathered in the dirt streets. Hospital officials said two pickup trucks filled with body parts were brought to the morgue.
"I was waiting near a shop to lift some boxes, when I saw the owner of the shop fall down," said Satar Hussein, 22, a worker in the market. "I helped him inside the shop, but he was already dead. The next thing I felt was pain in my left shoulder and some people rushing me to the hospital."
Ali Hamid, 25, the owner of a food store, said he was selling boxes of Pepsi when he was hit with shrapnel in his hand.
"I fainted, and the next thing I remember is some people putting me in a pickup with two dead bodies and rushing me to the hospital," he said, condemning the attack as "a terrorist act aiming at creating more sectarian tension and strife."
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Baiyaa, the scene of frequent sectarian violence including a bombing and mortar attack last week that killed seven people.
In Other Developments: Three U.S. troops were killed in separate attacks in Baghdad and west of the capital, the military said Sunday. Two Marines assigned to Multi National Force-West were killed Saturday while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, the military said. A roadside bomb killed a Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldier and wounded four others Friday in western Baghdad, the military said separately. The deaths raised to at least 3,365 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. A British soldier has died from injuries received in a roadside bomb attack in southern Iraq, the Ministry of Defense said Sunday. The ministry said the soldier from the Royal Logistic Corps was injured Thursday when a supply convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in Basra. The soldier was evacuated to Britain for treatment, but died Sunday. The death brings to 148 the number of British troops to have died in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi troops continued their operations in the city, raiding the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City early Sunday and killing at least eight insurgents in a gunbattle, the U.S. military said. Troops returned fire after being attacked by militants armed with rifles and rockets who were hiding in a building. Four other armed men attacked them from behind a car, and the troops again returned fire, destroying the car, the military said. The troops had targeted the area based on intelligence indicating the presence of an insurgent cell that smuggled weapons from Iran, sent fighters to the neighboring country for training and was involved in a kidnapping network, the military said. The U.S.-led forces destroyed a torture room and a large cache of weapons, including over 150 mortar rounds, during the raid, the military said. Yesterday, Al Qaeda in Iraq branded the country's Sunni vice president a "criminal" for participating in the U.S.-backed government. The verbal assault on Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was purportedly delivered by al Qaeda leader Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, in an audiotape posted on an extremist Web site only days after Iraqi authorities claimed he had been killed. A video was released showing Osama bin Laden's deputy mocking the nearly three-month-old Baghdad security plan, recounting the Apr. 12 suicide bombing at the Iraqi parliament cafeteria in the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, when a bomber slipped through security and blew himself up amid lunching lawmakers, killing one Sunni legislator. "And lest Bush worry, I congratulate him on the success of his security plan, and I invite him on the occasion for a glass of juice, but in the cafeteria of the Iraqi parliament in the middle of the Green Zone," Ayman al-Zawahri said, according to the Washington-based SITE Institute, which monitors militant statements. U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Me., on a trip to Baghdad with other lawmakers, said Saturday that she is not convinced that the Iraqi leaders have a sense of urgency about achieving political reconciliation. She said she told Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the country's most powerful Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, that the Iraqi parliament should refrain from taking a recess this summer. "As we are doing the military surge, we should have a political surge by the government," said Snowe, a Republican, during a conference call with reporters. "They (U.S. troops) should not be on the front lines while the parliament is at recess for two months." Snowe said al-Hakim told her no decision had been made but he expected parliament to cut short its recess. In other violence Sunday, a car bomb near the Ministry of Labor in Baghdad killed four people and wounded eight others, police said. Insurgents exploded another car bomb outside a police station in the town of Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, killing two police and a bystander, police said. A few minutes later, militants in the town attacked a police checkpoint near the al-Askari shrine, killing another police officer, police said. A gunbattle between unidentified gunmen and Iraqi forces in a market in the town of Baqouba 35 miles northeast of Baghdad killed two civilians dead, police said. In the town of Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, a roadside bomb outside a teacher's house killed three of his children, all of them under the age of 10, police said. The parents were not injured in the attack. Police also found the bullet-riddled bodies of three men, who were blindfolded, handcuffed and dumped in the Tigris River in the town of Suwayrah, 25 miles south of Baghdad.
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