A suicide bomber blew up a truck on a major bridge across the Tigris River in Baghdad yesterday, killing 10 people and sending cars plunging from the wrecked structure into the waters below.
The morning rush hour attack came a day after US military for the first time charged that Shiite Iran was supporting Sunni extremist groups who are known to trigger such high-profile vehicle bombs against civilians and security forces.
A large part of the al-Sarafiyah Bridge, one of the oldest in the Iraqi capital, collapsed under the force of the blast.
River police were seen racing to the scene on patrol boats and divers donned oxygen cylinders to search the murky waters for survivors.
Ten people were reported killed and 26 wounded, a security official said, with two officials saying four cars tumbled off the bridge which connects the Shiite al-Atafiyah neighborhood on the western bank of the Tigris to the Sunni district of Waziriyah on the east.
A witness, who gave his name only as Jawad, said that he was on the bridge trying to fix a puncture to his vehicle loaded with cooking gas when he saw a man park a truck nearby and run off.
"I saw the man get out of the vehicle and run away towards al-Waziriyah. I was astonished and told an army patrol," he said.
The witness said Iraqi soldiers sealed off the bridge to traffic before the truck exploded, perhaps explaining why the death toll was not higher.
Although US and Iraqi officials have been upbeat about a reduction in execution-style killings since launching a huge security crackdown nearly two months ago in Baghdad, they have admitted car bombings remain a curse.
On Wednesday, US military spokesman Major General William Caldwell admitted that the overall Iraqi death toll had risen by 10 percent across the country between February and last month.
According to Iraqi officials, more than 2,000 Iraqis were killed last month alone, 15 percent more than in February.
Amid increasing tensions between Iran and the US, Caldwell said that the military suspected Iranian agents were supporting Sunni extremist groups, something which the US administration has never said before.
Washington has regularly charged that Shiite Iran was funding and training Iraq's Shiite militias but Wednesday's accusation that the former-foe of Iraq was also aiding Sunni groups was a first.
"We do have some information that Iranian intelligence agencies have supported some Sunni extremist groups," Caldwell said.
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