Iraq car bomb kills at least 27

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A suicide car bomber sped to American soldiers as they distributed candy to children and detonated his vehicle today, killing up to 27 other people, US and Iraqi officials said. One US soldier and about a dozen children were among the dead.

At least 70 others, including three US soldiers, were injured in the attack, Iraqi and US officials said. It was the second major suicide bombing in Baghdad this week. A suicide bomber killed 25 people Sunday at an army recruiting centre.

The fireball from the Wednesday blast also set a nearby house on fire, the US military said. The attack stunned the impoverished east Baghdad neighborhood of mostly Shiite Muslims and Christians. An elderly woman dressed in traditional black beat her chest in front of her house in grief.

"There were some American troops blocking the highway when a US Humvee came near a gathering of children, and US soldiers began to hand them candies," said Karim Shukir, 42. "Then suddenly, a speeding car bomb showed up and struck both the Humvee and the children."

The vehicle used in the attack was a brown Toyota Land Cruiser with a license plate from the southern city of Basra, police said.

Hospitals and police said between 11 and 13 children were killed. Authorities scrambled to compile an accurate count of the dead and injured.

"The explosion was mainly on the children," resident Abbas Ali Jassim said.

In a separate attack today, a roadside bomb exploded near an American patrol in eastern Baghdad, killing a seven-year-old child and seriously wounding a woman, police said.

Following today's attack, charred remains of an engine block wrapped in barbed wire lay in the street. A child's bicycle was crumpled beside the street, which was splattered with pools of blood.

At Kindi hospital, where many of the dead and injured were taken, one distraught woman swathed in black sat cross-legged outside the operating room. "May God curse the mujahedeen and their leader," she cried as she pounded her own head in grief.

Hours after the attack, about 200 people turned out for the funeral of five of the victims, in keeping with Muslim tradition that the dead must be buried quickly. The crowd shouted "Allahu Akbar" - "God is great - and some fired weapons in the air.

A US-Iraqi military operation launched in May has significantly reduced suicide bombings in the capital. But US and Iraqi authorities acknowledge that it is difficult to eliminate such attacks entirely.

In other violence Wednesday, gunmen killed an Iraqi soldier while he was driving his car in western Baghdad, police said. Two other Iraqi soldiers, including one lieutenant, were killed in a gunfight in another west Baghdad neighbourhood.