A car bomb exploded at a market in Khalis, a city in the restive central Iraqi province of Diyala, killing at least 30 people and around 80 others, according to local officials.
REUTERS - A minivan packed with explosives blew up at a crowded market in Iraq's troubled northern Diyala province on Friday, killing at least 30 people and wounding 80 others, police and officials said.
The attack took place near a crowded cafe just steps from the headquarters of a police rapid-response unit in the town of Khalis, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
The bomb exploded around sunset when the area was filled with shoppers.
"The blast was severe. Many shops were destroyed and the roofs collapsed," police lieutenant Abdul Jabar Ihmoid said. "The roof of the coffee shop, which was full of people, also collapsed. We believe there are people still under the debris."
Sadeq al-Hussaini, a member of the Diyala provincial council, said the bomb had killed at least 30 people and wounded 80.
Overall violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since the sectarian slaughter of 2006-07 but bombings are still a regular occurrence and the insurgency unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion remains entrenched in mainly Sunni Diyala and other parts of northern Iraq.
Khalis was the scene of a market bombing in March that killed nearly 60 people.
On Monday gunmen wearing Iraqi military uniforms beheaded an imam who had recently criticised al Qaeda and hung his head on an electricity pole in the Diyala village of Saadiya.
Police said they wanted to know how attackers had managed to get the minivan into the Khalis market area, where vehicles need special permits to travel.
"We are doing an investigation. We want to know how that vehicle reached this place," said a police official who asked to remain anonymous. "Not all vehicles are allowed in this area."
Another car bombing on Friday in the town of Nimrud, just south of the northern city of Mosul, wounded seven people, police said.
Tensions have been running high in Iraq since an inconclusive March 7 parliamentary election left a power vacuum and raised concerns about a renewal of sectarian violence.
A cross-sectarian coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and supported heavily by minority Sunnis won a two-seat victory over a mostly Shi'ite bloc headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Iraq's minority Sunnis feel they have been marginalised by the political ascent of the Shi'ite majority since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
The election has yet to be certified and talks to form a new government could take weeks.
Attacks that have killed hundreds of people in recent weeks were seen as al Qaeda in Iraq's response to the deaths in an April raid of its leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the purported head of an affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq.
Date created : 2010-05-21