Car bombs kill more than 50 in Iraq

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The Independent Online

Car bombs on crowded streets killed more than 50 people in Sunni Arab areas of Iraq today, a sudden spasm of violence in areas which had been comparatively quiet while battles raged in the Shi'ite south.

In one of the deadliest strikes in months, one car bomb killed 40 people and wounded 80 outside a provincial government headquarters in Baquba, local capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad, police said.

Police said the blast killed people on the busy streets and in their cars as they were passing the location. Women and children were among the victims.

US forces put the death toll at 36, with 67 wounded. A US military statement said three buses were destroyed and 10 shops damaged.

"These acts are intended to inflict fear into the local population and are just another example of the cruelty of the anti-Iraqi insurgency," a US military spokeswoman in northern Iraq, Major Peggy Kageleiry, said in a statement.

Ambulances struggled to get the wounded to hospitals because of the sheer number of victims. A Reuters television cameraman filmed police ferrying wounded and dead to hospital in the backs of pick-up trucks.

Corpses lay scattered in the hospital yard, wrapped in white sheets. Wounded lay on the floors of corridors in bloody clothes while harried doctors and nurses rushed to apply bandages.

Suspicion for the blast is likely to fall on al-Qa'ida, given the Sunni Arab militant group's history of striking with car bombs near government targets and civilian crowds.

A second car bomb, believed to be driven by a suicide attacker, exploded outside a popular restaurant in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad, killing 13 people and wounding 14 others, a hospital source and police said.

Another car bomb struck an Iraqi police convoy in Baghdad, killing three people and wounding eight, police said.

In Mosul, a northern city that US forces believe is al-Qa'ida's last major urban stronghold, police said a suicide car bomber had struck a US convoy and a second car bomb exploded when Iraqi police cordoned the area. They gave an initial toll of 17 wounded.