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Associated Press

A car bomb exploded at a crowded livestock market south of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 13 people in a mainly Shiite Muslim area that the U.S. military has described as one of the safest in Iraq.

The blast, which injured 57 people, struck the market at the height of trading, scattering animal carcasses and human remains across the dirt.

“We had just started to have our breakfast in a tea shop inside the livestock market when we saw huge flames rising, and people started to run,” Hussein Abdul-Kadir said. “We saw several bodies and carcasses, some burned and on the ground.”


Abdul-Kadir, one of dozens of merchants, farmers, butchers and buyers at the market, said the wounded were carried to their cars to be taken to the hospital.

The attack -- on the outskirts of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad -- was Iraq’s deadliest in three weeks and underscored the dangers still facing the country as the U.S. prepares to withdraw by the end of 2011.

The previous major attack, on Feb. 13, took place in nearby Musayyib, where a female suicide bomber killed 40 Shiite pilgrims.

Both bombings occurred in Babil province, an area where U.S. commanders have expressed increasing confidence in security gains. Hillah lies in Babil’s mainly Shiite south. Musayyib is farther north, where the population reflects a volatile mix of Sunni Muslims and Shiites.

U.S. forces have already turned over responsibility for the province to the Iraqis. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, the top U.S. general in southern Iraq, said last month that he believed violence in his sector had fallen to such low levels that peace was “not reversible.”

But he warned that the Iraqi government needed to shore up the gains by providing essential services to its people.