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At least 10 killed, more than 50 wounded, in truck-bomb attack

At least 10 people died and more than 50 were wounded when a truck bomb exploded at a live-animal market near the Iraqi city of Hilla, according to police and medical officials.

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AFP - A truck bomb killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 50 on Thursday at a crowded livestock market near the Iraqi city of Hilla, police and medical officials said.

The blast in the town of Al-Medhatiaya was the worst single attack in the country since a suicide bomber killed 35 Shiite pilgrims heading to the holy city of Karbala south of Baghdad last month.

Witnesses told AFP the carnage left human body parts mixed with animal limbs. Rescue workers laboured to separate and identify the remains.

Survivors of the blast fled in all directions, the witnesses said, fearing a second explosion would follow.

The went off on a busy main road running past the major market southeast of Hilla, which lies more than 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Baghdad, police officer Khadim al-Shammari told AFP.

Casualty reports by the US military and the Iraqi ministry of defence put the death toll at 10 and more than 50 wounded.

However, a doctor at the Babylon health office in Hilla, the capital of Babil province, put the toll at nine. Casualty discrepancies are common immediately following bombings.

"Ten Iraqi civilians were killed and 56 were injured when a VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) exploded east of Hilla at approximately 8:25 am," said a US army spokesman.

An AFP correspondent said the market was packed with traders from across Babil province ahead of the Muslim weekend on Friday and Saturday.

The bombing followed a series of attacks on Iraqi police, soldiers and a pro-US militia leader on Wednesday that left at least 11 people dead and 33 wounded across the country.

Since late 2007, security has improved dramatically in Iraq. While attacks remain common in Baghdad and in provinces such as Diyala and Nineveh, violence is not usual in the ethnically mixed central province of Babil.

However, 258 Iraqis were killed in violence in February, a sharp rise from the previous month that saw the lowest casualty figures since the March 2003 US-led invasion, according to government statistics.

The 35 percent increase from January's total of 191 was mainly attributable to the more than 50 people who died in a spate of attacks during the Shiite religious commemorations for Arbaeen.

Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents commonly target Iraq's crowded religious festivals and pilgrimages.

Bustling markets are another favourite of rebels that continue to operate in the country despite persistent Iraqi and US forces' efforts to neutralise them.

In 2008, 6,772 Iraqis were killed in violence. But in January 2007 alone 1,992 civilians died.
 

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