Published: June 18, 2008

BAGHDAD — A car bomb set to explode during the busiest time of day killed at least 51 people and wounded 75 Tuesday evening as shoppers were strolling through a Shiite neighborhood market in Baghdad. It was the deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital in more than three months.

The blast struck a crowded bus terminal near a market in Huriya, a northwest Baghdad district that once had a large population of Sunnis but after the American-led invasion saw horrific ethnic cleansing by Shiite militias and death squads, who killed or drove thousands of Sunnis out.

Survivors and relatives of the victims in the Tuesday blast were enraged and on edge. One man lost 11 relatives, including five female cousins. At a courtyard in front of the Kadhimiya Hospital morgue, people screamed, wept and shrieked. Some cursed the government for allowing the blast to happen while others called on God for revenge.

People fleeing the blast site who were interviewed by a New York Times reporter at a cordon set up around the scene of the attack said there had been two bombs, not the single explosion that Iraqi officials described. Iraqi forces sealed off the area and allowed in only ambulances and police vehicles. One worker at the morgue of nearby Kadhimiya Hospital said that 35 to 40 bodies had been brought to the hospital within the first two hours.

The bomber struck as Iraqi and American troops were attending a neighborhood meeting nearby, according to one Iraqi police officer interviewed at the scene. After the blasts, the police officer said, some people angrily surrounded Humvees and started throwing rocks and other objects. A rumor swept the crowd of frantic survivors that there was still one car bomb left that had yet to be detonated.

According to an official at the Interior Ministry, the casualty toll was the worst for any attack in Baghdad since early March, when a two-stage bomb blast in the Karada shopping district killed at least 54 people and wounded 123.

Riyadh Mohammed contributed reporting.


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