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Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Blast rips through Baghdad crowd

Iraqi medics transport a woman injured in Thursday's blast in Baghdad
More than 35 people have been injured in the explosion

A car bomb blast which ripped through a crowd of shoppers near a bus stop in northern Baghdad has killed at least 20 people and injured more than 35.

The bomb went off near a busy market in the capital's Shaab district, a mainly Shia area, officials say.

Iraqi police believe it was a deliberate attempt to kill the maximum number of civilians possible.

Violence has declined in Iraq recently but on Monday, a suicide bomber killed 25 people in the north of the country.

Nearly 70 people died earlier this month in two suicide attacks in Baghdad.

On Wednesday, a US military spokesman said that attacks across Iraq had fallen to levels of the early months of the US-led war which began in March 2003.

'Sending message'

The car with the bomb was parked near a bus terminal between a hospital and a busy market.

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Iraqi officials say four children and four women were among those killed in the blast, which happened on Thursday afternoon.

No-one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

"I tried to escape and the fire was everywhere," Umm Hatam, 45, who had been heading home from the market with her shopping when the bomb went off, told the AFP news agency.

"I saw the dead bodies of women and children, and about 10 small buses were burnt."

Police think it was a deliberate attempt to slaughter civilians at random, probably by al-Qaeda in Iraq, as a way of sending a message that "we are still here", the BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad says.

Our correspondent adds that the poor and unremarkable Shaab district has been attacked several times before.



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