BAGHDAD (AFP) – The toll in a powerful car bomb that tore through a Baghdad street full of diners has risen to 40 dead and 83 wounded, a security official said, updating earlier statistics.
“The number of dead from Wednesday’s car bomb has risen to 40 dead and 83 wounded,” an official at the interior ministry told AFP. Security officials had previously put the toll at 34 killed.
The biggest blast to hit the Iraqi capital in weeks came as residents were enjoying a night out at the Al-Sadrain interchange, in Baghdad’s northwestern Shula neighbourhood, that is popular for its eateries and retail outlets.
The attack in the poor Shiite neighbourhood caused the highest number of casualties since April 29 when more than 50 people — also in mostly Shiite districts of the capital — were killed in a wave of near-simultaneous bombings.
Despite a surge in violence in recent weeks, Iraq has insisted that the timetable of withdrawal of US troops, enshrined in a landmark security pact concluded with Washington in November, will not be affected.
The US military is scheduled to leave the nation’s cities and towns by June 30 ahead of a complete withdrawal by the end of 2011.
Recent attacks in Baghdad have mainly targeted Iraq’s majority Shiite community, prompting fears of a return of Al-Qaeda-style violence attacks aimed at reigniting the sectarianism that swept the country two years ago.
Overall security in Iraq has improved dramatically since local tribes and former insurgents joined forces with the US military to fight Al-Qaeda in late 2006, but attacks are frequent in Baghdad, Mosul in the north and the central province of Diyala.