At least 35 people were killed and 138 injured Thursday in a massive car bombing attack at an Iraqi Civil Defence Corp (ICDC)recruitment center in Baghdad.
Health Ministry official Saad al-Amili said that the toll was likely to rise.
Reports said a car slammed into a crowd and exploded outside the recruiting station for Iraqi security forces. An estimated 100 volunteers were trying to enter the recruiting center, which is near a former military airport, when the car crashed into the crowd, said Capt. Hani Hussein of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
Many of the victims had just gotten off a bus at about 9 a.m., U.S. Army Col. Mike Murray said.
"All of the victims who came here are poor people trying to earn a living. They wanted to volunteer to support their families," said Yas Khudair a security forces member. "There were no Americans nearby when the explosion took place."
The blast scattered bodies and debris across a four-lane highway outside Baghdad's Muthanna airport, which is used as a base by both the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the U.S. military. The explosion could be heard for miles and sent a cloud of smoke over the city.
Ambulances raced to the scene and Iraqi police cordoned off the area. Several vehicles, including an armored car, were damaged.
The same center was the target of a suicide attack in February that killed 47 people.
Surrounded by foreign security guards and Iraqi police, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi visited the site of the bombing and described it as a "cowardly attack."
"We are going to face these escalations," he said. "The Iraqi people are going to prevail and the government of Iraq is determined to go ahead in confronting the enemies, whether they are here in Iraq or whether they are anywhere else in the world."
On his part, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reacted to the car bomb attack, and said, it was "an attack directly at the Iraqi people" aimed at disrupting the transfer of power later this month.
"The terrorists used to justify their terror saying it was against the occupation. The occupation is going to end in 12 days time; now the terrorists appear to be trying to stop the transfer of power to the Iraqi people themselves.
"We and the Iraqi people will not be deterred. The transfer of power will take place. Iraqis will take control of their lives."
Another car bomb exploded Thursday afternoon in a village
near Balad, some 80 kilometers north of Baghdad,
killing six Iraqi ICDC members and injuring four others,
the U.S. 1st Infantry Division said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)