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Suicide Bomber Blast Kills 122 In Attack on Security Recruits 2 decks

By Warzer Jaff and Robert F. Worth

The New York Times -- HILLA, Iraq

A suicide bomber steered a sedan full of explosives into a thick crowd of Iraqi police and army recruits here on Monday morning, killing at least 122, Iraqi officials said, in the deadliest single bombing since the American invasion nearly two years ago.

The bombing in Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad, tore into a crowd of several hundred recruits who were waiting for required checkups at a medical clinic across from the mayor’s office and a large outdoor market.

The victims also included men, women, and children who were shopping for food and walking through a busy intersection when the car bomb exploded about 8:30 a.m., officials said. The blast left at least 170 people injured, according to the Interior Ministry, and was so powerful that it set fire to a row of shops across the street.

Witnesses described a scene of horrific carnage, with huge pools of blood visible on the pavement and mangled corpses being loaded onto wooden handcarts. Outside the clinic, blood could be seen splashed on a wall above a first-story window.

“I was standing inside the door when I saw a car coming fast down the road opposite the clinic,” said Alaa Sami, 31, a security guard who had been inside the medical center and escaped unhurt. “All of a sudden, the glass and shrapnel started coming down all around my head. When I got outside, I couldn’t believe it: There were dead bodies everywhere, and blood on the walls and the street.”

The attack, the latest of dozens aimed at Iraq’s fledgling security forces, demonstrated once again that the insurgency still packs the power to launch deadly strikes at will, despite the relatively peaceful national elections in January and the recent capture of several important leaders.

Indeed, the deadliness of the attacks appears to have increased recently, Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said on Monday at a news conference in Baghdad. In recent car bombings, “the number of casualties is much more than before,” Naqib said.