Baghdad car bomb kills 34
A car bomb exploded Wednesday near several restaurants in a Shiite neighborhood of northwest Baghdad, killing at least 34 people and injuring more than 70, police and hospital officials said.
The blast appeared timed for maximum civilian casualties, going off about 7 p.m., when many Baghdad residents take advantage of cooler evening temperatures for shopping and dining in outdoor kebab restaurants.
It was the first major car bombing in the capital since May 6, when 15 people were killed at a produce market in south Baghdad. That followed a string of deadly bombings against Shiite targets in the Baghdad area.
Nearly 200 people were killed in major bombings in Baghdad alone last month.
That has raised concern about security in the capital ahead of a June 30 deadline for the U.S. to remove all combat forces from Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
Police said Wednesday’s bombing occurred in Shula, a sprawling Shiite neighborhood that had been a stronghold of Shiite militias, including the Mahdi Army, during the height of sectarian fighting two years ago.
Though police said 34 people were killed and 72 injured, an official at the Health Ministry put the death toll at 37.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
A witness who gave only his nickname, Abu Ahmed, said a small truck carrying vegetables parked near a restaurant at Sadrian Square, and the driver disappeared. After five minutes, the vehicle exploded, killing men, women and children.
“I helped transfer many injured persons, despite my wounds,” said Abu Ahmed, whose hands were cut by shrapnel. “I saw pools of blood everywhere. More than 10 cars were damaged near the scene.”
U.S. troops are to leave Iraq’s cities under terms of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement that took effect Jan. 1. President Obama plans to remove combat troops from the country by September 2010, with all troops gone by the end of 2011.