(MENAFN - Arab News) Bombs killed at least 44 people at markets in Iraq yesterday, and authorities said they bore the hallmarks of sectarian attacks on Shiites by Al-Qaeda militants.
A bomb in a small truck exploded in a market in the city of Diwaniya, killing 40 people, and other blasts killed four more near the city of Karbala, police and officials said.
The Diwaniya bombing was near a mosque where people gather on their way to Karbala to celebrate the birthday of one of their important imams, Al-Mahdi, this week.
Police announced a partial curfew and blocked all entrances to Diwaniya, 150 km south of Baghdad and 130 km southeast of Karbala. Police sources said 75 people had been wounded.
"All of a sudden the explosion happened, I felt the power of the blast, it was so strong, it broke all the glass in my windows," butcher Ahmed Hassan, 23, said in his shop.
"I smelled blood and gunpowder."
He said a fellow shopkeeper had been taking dead bodies to the hospital morgue.
"We even saw body parts on the top of building, we took them down," said Hassan, looking pale and confused as he swept glass from his shop floor.
Shoes, toys and vegetables were scattered across the ground and at least 15 shops were destroyed.
Two burned vehicles stood near the site of the explosion. Witnesses said the bomb appeared to have been planted in a delivery truck.
Earlier in the day, two bombs in a vegetable wholesale market killed four people and wounded 29 near the central Iraqi city of Karbala, hospital and police sources said.
"The bombing happened because of sticky bombs attached to two parked cars which went off separately," said Hussein Shadhan, a provincial council member, who was at the hospital.
"Four of the wounded people are seriously injured and their medical situation is very critical."
"Initial investigations show that today's bombs bear the fingerprints of Al-Qaeda terrorist group," Salim Hussain, governor of Diwaniya, told Iraqiya state television.
Iraq's Al-Qaeda wing has claimed responsibility for some of the recent bombings.
Last month at least 237 people were killed and 603 wounded in attacks, mainly bombings, according to a Reuters tally, making June one of the bloodiest months in Iraq since US troops withdrew at the end of last year.
The deadliest attack occurred on June 13 when bombers killed more than 70 people.