Cairo: At least 78 people were killed and more than 150 wounded Monday after two nearly simultaneous bombs struck a predominantly Shia commercial area in central Baghdad in the deadliest attack in two months, officials said.
The US military reported the deaths of two Marines, raising the two-day death toll to 27 in a particularly bloody weekend for American forces in Iraq.
Monday s first blast, a parked car bomb, tore through stalls of vendors peddling DVDs and secondhand clothes shortly after noon in the Bab al-Sharqi market between Tayaran and Tahrir squares – one of the busiest parts of Baghdad. Seconds later, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd.
Police estimated that each car was loaded with nearly 100 kg of explosives.
Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili said at least 78 people were killed and 156 were wounded.
The explosions left body parts strewn on the bloodstained pavement as black smoke rose into the sky. Police sealed off the area as ambulances rushed to the scene.
Survivors were taken to nearby al-Kindi Hospital where emergency personnel worked feverishly over the bloodied and badly wounded.
Bodies covered in blue and white cloth littered the outdoor courtyard at the hospital. Family members and friends were at the side of the dead, screaming in grief and crying out oaths.
A suicide bomber killed at least 63 people in the same area last month.
The two US Marines were killed Sunday in separate attacks in the Anbar province, an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, the military said.
The deaths came a day after 25 US troops were killed Saturday in the third-deadliest day since the war started in March 2003 – eclipsed only by the one-day toll 37 US fatalities on Jan. 26, 2005, and 28 on the third day of the US invasion.
The heaviest tolls on Saturday came from a Black Hawk helicopter crash in which 12 US soldiers were killed northeast of Baghdad as well as an attack on a provincial government building in the Shia holy city of Karbala that left five US troops dead.
The US military has not ruled out hostile fire.