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More Than 30 Dead After Suicide Bombing on Crowded Bus in Iraq

By Kirk Semple
THE NEW YORK TIMES


BAGHDAD, IRAQ

A suicide bomber shoved aside a fare collector at Baghdad’s main bus terminal on Thursday, forced himself onto a crowded bus and blew himself up, causing an enormous explosion that killed at least 30 people and reduced the bus to a charred, mangled husk, witnesses and police officials said.

Separately, an Islamic insurgent group claimed in an Internet posting to have executed a kidnapped American security consultant, according to the SITE Institute, which tracks jihadist Web sites. The posting neither named the consultant nor provided evidence to back the claim.

The group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, said on Tuesday that it had abducted Ronald Alan Schulz, 40, a native of North Dakota, and threatened to kill him within 72 hours unless all detainees in Iraq were released.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad confirmed Schulz’s kidnapping, but a spokeswoman said on Thursday that the embassy was unable to verify the Internet claim.

The bus bombing occurred at about 10:45 a.m. in the Nahda terminal in central Baghdad, which serves as the station for buses bound for the Kurdish north and the Shiite-dominated south. The bus was full and about to leave the terminal when the bomber forced his way on, witnesses said.

“The fare collector saw the suicide bomber and told him that the bus was full,” said Ahmad Adnan Khalil, 20, another fare collector who witnessed the incident. “So the suicide bomber pushed the collector and blew himself up.”

Several bystanders said the blast was immediately preceded by a smaller explosion that appeared to come from the luggage hold, as if explosives had been hidden in a suitcase and detonated remotely. The explosions killed most of the passengers and several people at a nearby food stand, and wounded at least 25 others, the police said.

The bombing, the second large-scale suicide attack in Baghdad this week, appeared to have been driven by deadly sectarian intent, since the bus was filled with passengers headed toward the predominantly Shiite city of Nasiriyah in the south.

The insurgency, in part led by disgruntled Sunnis, has sought to provoke sectarian discord and further divide the nation by attacking unprotected Shiite targets, including mosques and marketplaces.

Though buses have long been a favorite target of suicide bombers in Israel, Thursday’s bombing in Baghdad may have been the first suicide bus bombing by Iraq’s insurgency, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior American military spokesman, said at a news conference on Thursday.

This was not the first attack at the Nahda terminal. A triple car-bomb attack at rush hour on Aug. 17 killed at least 43 people and wounded 89. After the August attack, however, neither the terminal’s operators nor the Iraqi security authorities appeared to have adopted tighter security measures, like thorough checks of passengers, luggage or vehicles.

The American military command has warned of a surge in violence in advance of Dec. 15 elections for a full, four-year National Assembly.