BAGHDAD — Sixteen people died Thursday when a bomb in a parked car detonated at a market in northeast Baghdad, the fifth big explosion this month in Iraq, Iraqi police said.
The bombing rattled public confidence in government efforts to promote an atmosphere of business as usual, with three world leaders visiting Baghdad this week. The blast, which also wounded more than 45 people, called into question just how safe Baghdad is these days.
The explosion occurred around noon in Shaab, a Shiite Muslim-majority area surrounded by Sunni Muslim neighborhoods on the northern edge of the city. The market, a collection of illegal vendors and a few legitimate shops along a main street, was packed with people shopping for their daily meals.
The explosion turned the marketplace into chaos. Vegetables and fruit were covered in the blood of grocers and customers. The car detonated near a small carpet shop, and the stench of burning sponge and nylon filled the air.
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"We almost forgot the sound of a bullet because there was no shooting for a long time," said Haider, a resident of the area who refused to give his full name for security reasons.
He considered himself lucky. He'd just entered his house when the explosion rocked it, and he was covered by shattered glass. When he rushed outside, he saw a ball of flame and blood everywhere.
Nearby, Abo Israa ran toward his sister's home as soon as he heard the explosion.
"It was really ugly to see the wounded people and blood," he said, adding that people in the street were shouting accusations at Americans for the explosion, though it wasn't clear why.
Adil Jabbar, 37, the owner of a small perfume shop, left his store quickly to help the wounded.
"Small cars started taking people to a nearby hospital," he said. "I went four times to the hospital. I moved more than 20 people. Three men died while I was moving them."
Pushcarts were covered with the blood of the wounded. One vendor coolly ate his lunch from a blood-soaked cart a short time after the explosion, a sign that death is nothing new to many Iraqis.
Iraqi and American forces blocked off the area. Two relatives of a victim negotiated with an American soldier to enter, hoping to fetch the documents belonging to their dead cousin. An American soldier let them pass, but warned, "Go to your home and don't do anything else, because I'm watching you."
The bombings this month have killed more than 100 people.
On March 9, 28 people were killed and 58 wounded in a suicide attack that targeted an east Baghdad police academy. Abu Ghraib, on the western edge of Baghdad, was the scene of explosions March 10 and March 23 in which 42 people were killed and about 70 wounded. In Diyala province, north of Baghdad, 25 people died Monday and 37 were wounded in an attack on a Kurdish funeral.
(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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