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MID: 46 killed as bombs rip through Baghdad

By Salam Faraj
30 Apr 2009 4:20 AM

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 29 AFP - A wave of near-simultaneous bombs ripped through crowded Baghdad markets and a packed minibus on Wednesday, killing 46 people including women and children out shopping, officials said.

Three blasts occurred within minutes of each other in markets in the impoverished Shi'ite district of Sadr City and two other neighbourhoods during afternoon rush hour when they were packed with mothers and schoolchildren.

"Forty-one people were killed and 68 wounded in three car bombs in market places," an interior ministry official told AFP.

"The explosions started about 4:30 pm (2330 AEST) ... Among the victims were women and children," added a Sadr City policeman.

Medical sources from hospitals in the Iraqi capital confirmed the toll of dead and wounded in Sadr City.

The attacks in the northeast area of the capital were followed by deadly blasts in two other districts that raised the toll to 46 dead and more than 75 wounded.

A bomb on a minibus killed five civilians and wounded three in the mixed neighbourhood of Dora in south Baghdad. Another car bomb in mixed Al-Shurta Al-Rabaa in the west injured five, security officials told AFP.

The explosions in Sadr City triggered a spontaneous protest among dozens of angry residents who poured into the streets and accused the police of cooperating with the Americans and failing to do their job effectively.

"Whatever you do Moqtada al-Sadr will be number one," they shouted, referring to the firebrand Shi'ite cleric whose main power base is in the eastern Baghdad slum.

As the crowd began to throw stones nervous police fired warning shots, sending locals diving for cover amid the charred wreckage of vehicles and burned out store fronts, an AFP reporter said.

The sprawling district was once one of the capital's most violent areas, a stronghold of Shi'ite death squads that was repeatedly hit with massive car bombs until a US and Iraqi military campaign brought a fragile calm last year.

Wednesday's carnage comes amid the worst wave of bloodletting to hit Iraq this year, including a devastating attack last week by two women who blew themselves up in a crowded market near a revered Shi'ite shrine in the capital, killing at least 65 people.

The surge in violence comes two months before US troops are to withdraw from all major Iraqi towns and cities as part of a general drawdown required by a security pact signed with Washington in November.

US forces are to pull out of all Iraqi cities and major towns by June 30 and from the country as a whole by the end of 2011.

Violence has plummeted over the past two years as American and Iraqi forces have allied with former Sunni insurgents and local tribes to pacify large swathes of the country.

However April is proving to be the deadliest month so far this year, with more than 300 people killed and about 700 wounded, according to an AFP count based on reports from security officials.