BAGHDAD – A commuter bus traveling from Baghdad to a southern city caught fire Tuesday morning, killing 14 passengers on board, Iraqi officials said.
The blaze broke out near the city of Kut, 100 miles southeast of the capital. Police said the fire broke out in the engine at the rear, then wind caused the flames to fan through the rest of the bus.
The head of the regional health department, Dr. Tahir Ghanim Murad, confirmed the death toll and said 30 other people were wounded. Police officials said the driver survived and was being questioned.
Mohammed al-Zubaidi, a taxi driver, was driving in the opposite direction of the bus when he saw the fire.
"I saw the bus driving on fire and then it turned over," al-Zubaidi said. He added an Iraqi police patrol was nearby and responded to the scene.
Though road accidents are not uncommon in Iraq, where the roads are poorly maintained, the bus fire accounted for the largest loss of life in recent days in a country where insurgent attacks are primarily responsible for large body counts.
News of the bus fire came the same day the U.S. military said an American soldier had been killed by a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad.
Violence in southern Iraq has dramatically dropped off, though insurgents continue to target U.S. and Iraqi security forces.
A Multi-National Division-South soldier was killed in an explosion Tuesday near Samawah, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, a military statement said.
The name of the soldier is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The death raises to at least 4,314 members of the U.S. military who have died in Iraq since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.