Mourners cry as they hold the coffin of a relative who was
killed in the attack. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A suicide bomber driving a minibus packed with explosives
has killed at least 45 people and wounded 157 in the southern
Iraqi city of Hilla, police and medical sources said.
The attacker approached a main checkpoint at a northern
entrance to the largely Shi'ite Muslim city and detonated the
minibus, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
At least 50 cars were set ablaze with passengers trapped
inside and part of the checkpoint complex was destroyed, the
Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda have been
regaining ground in Iraq over the past year, particularly in
the western province of Anbar bordering Syria.
No one claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, but the
deputy chairman of Hilla provincial council, Aqeel al-Rubaie,
accused al Qaeda of being behind the bombing.
Rubaie said the local government had received tips that al
Qaeda-affiliates hiding in farmland north of Hilla were
plotting a strike.
He said the violence was a spillover from fighting in
neighbouring Anbar, where the Shi'ite-led government has been
battling the al Qaeda faction the Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant (ISIL) around the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
"We have evidence that al Qaeda terrorists are standing
behind the suicide attack today and since the breakout of
fighting in Anbar, al Qaeda has stepped up attacks in Hilla,"
Rubaie told Reuters.
"We can't separate today's attack from Anbar's fight."
The scene of the attack was strewn with debris from the
checkpoint, and the shells of burnt out cars littered the
"I was sitting inside my kiosk when suddenly a horrible blast
threw me outside and hurled my groceries up in the air. I saw
cars set ablaze with people burning inside," said Abu Nawar,
owner of a makeshift kiosk made of palm tree leaves near the
Police were using cutting equipment to break into the
blackened vehicles and lift out the bodies, the police
"A policeman thought the minibus was suspicious and he asked
the driver to pull over for a check, but the vehicle
exploded," the officer said.
Bombings and other attacks killed almost 8,000 civilians in
Iraq in 2013, the deadliest year since 2008. Violence has not
abated in the early months of 2014.
Relatives of the casualties lined up outside the Hilla morgue
to claim the bodies of their loved ones. Inside, family
members cried and wept as they struggled to recognise the
"I want to keep my son's shoes forever, I loved him so much,
they broke my heart," said Um Muthanna, who identified the
charred body of her son, Muthanna Abdul Hussein, a cameraman
for state television, from his shoes and socks.
Muthanna was killed along with a second cameraman from
Iraqiya state television, Khalid Abid.
The death toll rose as some of the wounded died in hospital
and more bodies were discovered at the bomb site, police
In a separate incident, on the border of Anbar province and
western Baghdad, a group of gunmen attacked an army check
point in the Sunni area of Abu Ghraib, killing four soldiers,
police and medical sources said.
In northern Iraq, three North Oil Company employees were
killed and seven wounded when gunmen in a car fired at a bus
ferrying NOC employees near Tuz Khurmatu, close to the
oil-rich province of Kirkuk, according to a police official.
ISIL militants and other armed groups linked to the fight in
Anbar have been carrying out attacks in northern Iraq as they
try to divert government troops from Anbar and exploit
openings made by the concentration of security forces in the