A suicide bomber who jumped on a bus after security checks had been completed detonated an explosives belt among passengers heading to a Shiite city Thursday, killing 32 people and wounding 44, officials said.
Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier was killed Thursday when a roadside bomb exploded alongside an American convoy in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said. The command also said an American Marine died in a bombing on Wednesday west of the capital.
Several other explosions rumbled through the heart of the capital Thursday morning, including one that struck an American convoy killing a U.S. soldier, the military said. The latest deaths raised the number of U.S. service members who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003 to at least 2,133, according to an Associated Press count.
The bus was gutted by flames and most of those killed were aboard the vehicle, but several people who had gathered around a nearby food stall also were killed, police said. A hospital official said at least 37 people were injured.
Police said the attacker waited until the bus was slowly pulling away from the station, then jumped on board to avoid security checks. Police said the death toll was especially high because the blast triggered secondary explosions in gas cylinders stored at the food stall.
The blast occurred a week before national elections, and officials had warned of a surge in violence ahead of the balloting.
Witnesses told police that the suicide bomber left a car, boarded the packed bus and blew himself up as it was leaving for Nasiriyah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, police Lt. Ali Mitaab said.
Fire traps passengers
Fire swept through the bus, trapping passengers who had been headed to the southern city for the weekend, which starts here on Thursday evening. Charred corpses were left in the seats, their faces starring out through the shattered windows. Police climbed over the top of the vehicle inspecting what remained of luggage.
“As the bus was going outside the station, a man carrying a bag tried to got into the bus, but the conductor was suspicious about him,” police Lt. Wisam Hakim said. “He tried to stop him but the man insisted. He sat in the middle of the bus and then the explosion took place.”
The attack occurred at the major bus station for vehicles headed to the mostly Shiite areas of the south.
Last August the station was the scene of a horrific triple car bombing that killed at least 43 people and wounded 89.
Suicide attackers, either on foot or with a vehicle, have killed at least 1,819 Iraqis since the new government took office on April 28. Two-thirds of these attacks used a vehicle. During that period, at least 4,676 Iraqis were killed in war-related violence, including suicide attacks.