A parked car bomb ripped through a packed outdoor market in southwestern Baghdad this morning, killing 25 people and injuring 60 others, despite a three-month-old security crackdown meant to reduce violence in the capital.
The deadly blast occurred about 10am in the Shiite-dominated neighbourhood of Amil, damaging a nearby medical centre, turning buildings into charred husks and setting a line of cars on fire, police said.
The neighbourhood has seen an increase in violence in recent weeks, and Sunni politicians expressed fears that Shiite militiamen had resumed their campaign of sectarian cleansing in Amil and nearby neighbourhoods of southwestern Baghdad.
"There were four women around my stall when we heard a loud explosion, which threw me many metres away from my stall," said Fadhil Hussein, 32, who sells spices in the market and suffered shrapnel wounds in his back and head. "I found myself in a pickup truck with other people. Some of them were bleeding and yelling."
Sami Hussein, 25, was heading to the market with her five-year old son when she heard the blast, "followed by gray and black smoke, which engulfed the market and made me to fall on the ground."
She suffered shrapnel wounds in her face and legs.
"I lost my son, and have no idea about his fate," she said. Medical officials at the hospital said her son had been killed in the explosion.
The blast came amid the US and Iraqi security operation meant to flush out insurgents and restore order to Baghdad. However deadly attacks targeting civilians and police have continued.
US military officials say that insurgent groups, feeling the pressure from the crackdown, have hit back by stepping up their car bombing attacks with their devastating death tolls. A May 6 bombing in a market in the Baiyaa district, killed 30 people and injured 80 others.
A few minutes before the bombing in Amil, which adjoins the neighbourhood where the May 6 blast occurred, gunmen in two cars drove through the nearby Khadra neighbourhood and ambushed a civilian car carrying three plainclothes police officers from the major crimes unit, killing two and wounding the third, police said.
Police and other Iraqi security officers have been heavily targetted by insurgents, who accuse them of collaborating with US-led forces in the country.
Another police officer was killed when a roadside bomb exploded next to a police patrol driving through an eastern Baghdad neighbourhood about 9am, police said. Three other officers were injured in the attack.