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Motorcycle nail bomb claims 19 in Baghdad

A BOOBY-TRAPPED motorcycle loaded with nails and ball-bearings exploded in a crowded bazaar yesterday in Baghdad, killing at least 19 people and wounding 50, Iraqi officials said. The attack came just four days before the deadline for United States combat troops to withdraw from cities.

A wave of violence that has killed more than 200 people this week has raised fresh doubts about the ability of Iraqi forces to provide security as their American partners become less visible.

The explosion occurred in the morning when the market was packed with young people buying or selling motorcycles in central Baghdad, according to police and hospital officials.

Ghaith Abdul-Allah, 35, was unloading motorcycles he planned to sell from his truck when the blast occurred.

"I saw a ball of fire and some motorbikes were lifted about 10 meters into the air," he said. "When the smoke from the explosion vanished, I saw a large number of young men lying on the ground soaked in blood.

"There were others who were screaming and crying for a lost brother or a friend. I do not know why these explosions are taking place and the Iraqi security forces are doing nothing to stop them," he added.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, but insurgents frequently target crowded market districts to try to maximize casualties. The motorcycle bazaar is only open on Fridays.

The market has been hit by several bombings in the past, but Iraqis had resumed flocking to the area due to a sharp drop in violence.

An aide to anti-US Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Sheik Asaad al-Nassiri, denounced the bombings -- many of which targeted Shiite areas -- and called on worshippers to protest the violence after Friday prayers in Kufa, south of Baghdad.

He also read a statement from al-Sadr that blamed the US for the bombings and called on his followers to demand "security, services, independence and sovereignty by peaceful and civilized means."

A medical assistant at one of the hospitals where the victims were taken, who identified himself as Abu Mohammed, said many of the wounded people had been struck by nails and ball-bearings and suffered severe burns.

Under a security pact, the US must pull back from cities by June 30 and from the entire country by the end of 2011.


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