Baghdad bombs kill at least 69

08-01-2007, 12h14

Three large bombs tore through crowded Baghdad districts on Wednesday, killing at least 69 people, as government figures revealed Iraq's civilian death toll jumped by more than one third in July.

In the largest blast, a truck bomb detonated near a filling station in west Baghdad, setting fire to a huge fuel tank and killing at least 50 people and wounding at least 60 more, according to security officials.

A US military spokeswoman said that Iraqi and American soldiers were at the scene and that initial reports were that a 7,000 gallon (26,500 litre) fuel tank had exploded. She could not confirm the death toll.

Hours earlier a car bomb ripped through a busy Baghdad shopping district, killing at least 16 Iraqis and wounding 14, according to Brigadier General Qassim Atta, an Iraqi army spokesman for Baghdad security operations.

The blast erupted near the Karrada Harij electronics market at a crossroads known for the popular Al-Fiqma ice cream store, sending a dull boom echoing across the city and sending a plume of smoke skywards.

Iraqi forces sealed off the area, as residents and ambulances ferried the dead and dying to city hospitals.

Ten of the bodies were taken to Ibn Nafees hospital following the explosion and 25 people, including women, were wounded, a hospital official said.

There was no word on who might have planted the bomb, but the area is known as a stronghold of supporters of Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim and previous attacks of this kind have been blamed on Sunni extremists.

A third car bomb went off in the southern neighbourhood of Dura, one of Baghdad's most notorious districts, killing three more people and wounding another five, according to security officials.

Separately a roadside bomb damaged and set fire to a US army Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, an armoured troop transporter patrolling in the Al-Amin neighbourhood of southeast Baghdad, witnesses said.

The military confirmed the attack, but could not say if troops were hurt.

The blasts came as new numbers released by three government ministries revealed that the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the country's brutal civil conflict rose by more than a third in July.

The spike came despite a five-month-old surge in US troop levels designed to stabilise the capital to allow Iraq's politicians space to hammer out crucial political agreements to stem the country's sectarian bloodshed.

At least 1,652 civilians were killed in Iraq in July, 33 percent more than in the previous month, according to figures compiled by the Iraqi health, defence and interior ministries and made available to AFP.

Meanwhile the US military said four more US troops were killed on Tuesday, bringing US losses since the March 2003 invasion to 3,653, with 83 troops killed in July, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.

Separately, the British ministry of defence confirmed that another of its soldiers had been killed by a bomb attack in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, bringing to 164 the number to have died in Iraq.

US casualties declined after the first deadly three months of the surge as more troops moved from carrying out large-scale assaults on previously unsecured areas to manning combat outposts and policing the streets.