Car bombs killed 30 people in Iraq yesterday and wounded more than 70 in one of the bloodiest spasms of violence of recent weeks as political leaders closed in on a deal to form a national unity government.
The attacks came a day after a British military helicopter was apparently shot down in Basra, triggering a confrontation in which jubilant Iraqis pelted British troops with stones and firebombs.
At least 21 people were killed and 52 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated a car on a crowded street in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, police and doctors said. The effect was devastating.
The 9:30am blast decimated crowds going about their business at the start of the working week, close to a partially built Shiite mosque and 500m from the main bus station.
A dozen other vehicles burned out as a result of the explosion.
Two cars exploded in the capital shortly before the Karbala blast.
A suicide car bomber hit an Iraqi army patrol in the rebellious, mainly Sunni northern district of Aadhamiya at 9:20am, killing eight people and wounding 15. Soldiers and civilians were among the casualties.
The patrol was leaving its base when the attacker set off his bomb.
A car bomb exploded at a busy intersection close to the offices of a government-funded Al-Sabah newspaper in northern Baghdad at 8:50am, killing one civilian and wounding five. The target was a police patrol, but police sources say no policemen were hurt, just civilians.
Habib Mohammed Hadi al-Sadr, director of the state-run Iraqi Media Net, said the dead man was a newspaper print shop worker and said a total of 25 were wounded.
"Once again, the despicable, criminal terrorists targeted the press and media represented by al-Sabah newspaper," al-Sadr said on Iraqi television. "I say to these terrorists that, for the sake of the free word, we will remain undaunted in expressing our thoughts."
In Basra, Iraqi police said four Iraqi adults and a child were killed during the melee that followed the helicopter crash. Shiite gunmen exchanged fire with British soldiers who hurried to the scene. About 30 civilians were injured in the day's chaos, but the city was largely calm overnight.
British Defense Secretary Des Browne said that up to five Britons died in the crash of the Lynx helicopter, which carries a crew of two or three and up to 10 passengers.
"There were no more than five people on board the helicopter," Britain's Press Association quoted Browne as telling the BBC. "We are currently informing the next of kin."
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sent a message to British Prime Tony Blair expressing his condolences and denounced the "vile act."
Basra police said the helicopter went down in a vacant lot between two houses after it was hit by a shoulder-fired missile.
Meanwhile, the bullet-ridden and bound bodies of eight men, ranging in age between 25 and 30, were found early yesterday morning near al-Kindi Hospital in eastern Baghdad, said police Lieutenant Bilal Ali.
The men appeared to have been tortured before being killed and dumped near a garbage container.
Interior Ministry sources said 42 bodies had been found in the last 24 hours in the capital alone, including the eight dumped near the hospital.
In Madain, about 20km southeast of Baghdad, the bound bodies of three men were found on Saturday night, said police Lieutenant Colonel Sabah Hussein.