- Baghdad - Iraq violence
AFP - A car bomb ripped through a wholesale produce market near a confessionally mixed neighbourhood in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 37, security officials said.
"Ten people were killed by the explosion of a car bomb in the Al-Rasheed vegetable market just south of the Dora district," an interior ministry official told AFP.
Workers in the market told AFP a man drove a pick-up truck in to the Rasheed, one of Baghdad's largest co-operative produce markets, parked the vehicle and left.
Witnesses also said police had found another bomb outside the market gate and a disposal crew had been called in to defuse it. There was no independent confirmation from police.
Women were among the injured, the witnesses said.
Baghdad has been struck by a series of deadly bombings targeting crowded civilian areas in recent weeks, and April was the bloodiest month in Iraq since September, with 355 people killed, according to official figures.
The recent rise in attacks comes after two years of steady improvement in security across the country but less than two months before the deadline for US troops to pull out of all Iraqi towns and cities.
Iraq has insisted that the timetable, enshrined in a landmark security pact concluded with Washington in November, will not be altered.
"The Iraqi government is committed to the dates for the agreed-upon withdrawal of American forces from all the cities and towns by June 30 of this year," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said earlier this week.
He said Iraq was also committed to the agreement's requirement that all US troops be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, effectively ending the 2003 US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
"These dates cannot be extended and they are in keeping with the process of transitioning and handing over responsibility to Iraqi security forces, according to what was agreed upon," Dabbagh said.
US commanders and Iraqi leaders had previously hinted that troops might remain in some especially volatile areas past June, including Iraq's volatile second largest city of Mosul which still sees regular insurgent attacks.
Last week, a US military spokesman said the question of troops remaining in the northern city past June was "undecided" and pointed out that the agreement allows for troops to remain in cities past the deadline if both sides agree.
April saw a string of deadly bombings in Shiite and mixed neighbourhoods of the capital that were reminiscent of attacks that occurred at the height of Iraq's sectarian fighting in 2006.
At that time such bombings triggered reprisal attacks in which thousands of mostly Sunni men were abducted, tortured and executed, but the recent wave of attacks has not yet generated any sectarian fighting.
Statistics compiled by the defence, interior and health ministries showed that 290 civilians, 24 soldiers and 41 policemen were killed in violent attacks across the country in April, and that another 747 people were wounded.
The death toll was 40 percent higher than in March because of a wave of attacks, including six car bombs which rocked the capital at rush hour on April 29, killing more than 50 people and wounding dozens more.