(photo credit: AP)
A suicide truck bomber struck a market in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 121 people and wounding scores among the crowd buying food for evening meals, the most devastating strike in the capital in more than two months.
The attacker was driving a truck carrying food when he detonated his explosives, destroying stores and stalls that had been set up in the busy outdoor Sadriyah market, police said.
The late-afternoon explosion was the latest in a series of attacks against mainly Shiite commercial targets in the capital. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appeared to be part of a bid by Sunni insurgents to provoke retaliatory violence and kill as many people as possible ahead of a planned US-Iraqi security sweep.
Mortars reportedly struck predominantly Sunni areas hours after the attack.
Many of the injured were driven to overwhelmed hospitals in pickup trucks and lifted onto stretchers.
"It was a strong blow. A car exploded. I fell on the ground," said one young man with a bandaged head, his face still streaked with blood.
Officials said at least 121 people were killed and 226 wounded. The Kindi hospital, Baghdad's main emergency facility, was overwhelmed and had to start refusing patients, asking ambulances to take them elsewhere.
The Sadriyah market sits on a side street lined with stores and vendors selling fruit, vegetables and other food items. The area is largely occupied by Shiite Kurds, a minority as most Kurds are Sunni, and he market is just about 500 meters (yards) from a revered Sunni shrine in an adjacent neighborhood.
The blast was the deadliest attack in the capital since Nov. 23, when suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters attacked the capital's Sadr City Shiite slum with a series of car bombs and mortars that struck in quick succession, killing at least 215 people.