BAGHDAD, Iraq – At least 24 people died and 40 were injured after a car bomb detonated outside a busy market just south of Baghdad (search) on Friday.
The explosion ripped through crowds in the town of Suwayra (search). This area 25 miles south of the capital is known to be a notorious insurgent stronghold, routinely referred to as the Triangle of Death.
Earlier Friday, the bodies of at least 12 people who had been shot and killed were found buried at a garbage dump in Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. And in another attack targeting Iraqi security forces, a homicide car bomb destroyed a police minibus at a checkpoint in Saddam Hussein's hometown, killing at least eight policemen, officials said.
The latest attacks stand in stark contrast to several successful days in Iraq for U.S. forces.
Over the past two days, 17 suspected terrorists have been captured and several large weapons caches that included rockets, mortars, plastic explosives and TNT have been discovered.
Also, a U.S. patrol in south Baghdad caught a terrorist assembling a car bomb on the side of the road. On Thursday, an Iraqi soldier succeeded in stopping a car bomber in western Baghdad, by forcing him to detonate before he could reach his intended target.
The soldier fired on the car after the driver refused to slow down for an upcoming checkpoint outside the Muthana Air Field. The driver of the car was killed in the ensuing blast and the soldier was wounded, military officials said.
Friday's attacks were part of a surge of violence that has killed at least 255 people — many of them Iraqi soldiers and police — since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (search) announced his new government April 28, with seven Cabinet positions still undecided.
Those assaults included 73 people who died when homicide bombers with explosives strapped to their bodies set them off in lines of job applicants waiting outside two separate recruitment centers for security forces in Baghdad and the northern city of Arbil (search).
At the garbage dump, authorities kept journalists at a distance. But an Associated Press photographer saw U.S. military, Iraqi police and soldiers at the dump in Kasra Waatash (search), on the northeastern edge of the capital, along with three ambulances.
There were conflicting accounts of the number of bodies found. Al-Maslokhi said 14 bodies were found. Kadhim al-Itabi, a local police chief, put the number at 12.
Al-Itabi confirmed they had been shot. The bodies were being transferred to the central morgue in Baghdad, said Mazin Fadhid, a policeman at the same station.
Fadhid said most of the victims appeared to be young men. Some were dressed in traditional white robes, others were in pants and shirts, and at least one was wearing a traffic officer's uniform, he said.
Master Sgt. Greg Kaufman, a U.S. military spokesman, referred questions to Iraqi authorities.
Police were called to the scene by scavengers who found some of the bodies while searching for scrap metal and other items to sell, al-Maslokhi said.
Police found the dead, believed to be Iraqis, in shallow graves at the dump, said al-Maslokhi, adding that they seemed to have been killed recently. He said police were still digging at the site.
Iraq's new Cabinet held its first meeting Thursday. Al-Jaafari aide Laith Kuba said the seven vacant portfolios, including the key oil and defense ministries, would be filled by Saturday and parliament would be asked to vote on them Sunday.
In Tikrit (search), Saddam's hometown, a silver Opel car packed with explosives — and with a taxi sign on its roof — destroyed the minibus at 8:30 a.m. Friday, said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Brian Thomas.
At least eight policemen were killed, said police Lt. Col. Saad Abdul Hamid and police Maj. Hakim al-Azawi. They said seven people were wounded: a policeman, two National Guardsmen and four civilians.
Initial reports by police had mistakenly said the attack involved explosives hidden inside the minibus and set off by remote control in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad.
In Thursday's deadliest attack, an insurgent used a suicide bomber belt to walk up to an army recruitment center in Baghdad which, like many others, have been turned into small fortresses of concrete blast walls and razor wire to prevent car bombings.
At al-Yarmouk Hospital (search), the morgue was overflowing with mangled bodies after the blast. One man lay screaming on his bed. Both his legs had been blown off, and pools of blood covered the floor. At least 13 people were killed and 20 wounded.
A similar attack Wednesday, in which a suicide bomber blew himself up in a line of police recruits in the northern city of Irbil, killed 60 Iraqis and wounded 150.
Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said there has been an escalation in the use of suicide belts since security was stepped up around recruitment centers and other insurgent targets. Recent raids in and around Baghdad uncovered some assembled car bombs, he said, and foiled many attacks.
"But it is rather difficult to find out about an explosive belt put on by a person," Rahman said.
On Jan. 30, Iraqis voted in historic parliamentary elections and private cars were banned from the streets. There were nine attacks that day by bombers who had explosives strapped to their bodies.
Insurgents often target Iraqi security forces, which are being recruited and trained by the U.S.-led coalition as part of its exit strategy in Iraq. An estimated 1,800 Iraqi soldiers and police officers were killed between June 2004 and April 27 this year, the latest date for which statistics were available, according to figures compiled by the Brookings Institution (search) in Washington, D.C.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.