BAGHDAD – A parked car bomb exploded in a commercial district of central Baghdad Thursday, killing 18 people and wounding dozens more.
The bombing took place off a bridge in Tahrir Square, a district of clothing shops just outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and much of the Iraqi government, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The policeman and a hospital official said 18 people died. The hospital official said 57 others were injured.
The attack is the latest in a string of violence to grip Iraq's capital after several months of relative calm that followed a surge of U.S. forces last year.
There also has been a sharp increase of U.S. military deaths in recent days. Twelve Americans have been killed in the past four days, bringing the overall U.S. military death toll since the start of the war to 3,987, according to an AP count.
The U.S. military said Thursday that soldiers had killed a young Iraqi girl after firing a warning shot at a woman who "appeared to be signaling to someone" along a road where several bombs had recently been found.
The shooting occurred Wednesday afternoon in the volatile Diyala province north of Baghdad. An exact location was not given in a military statement.
The girl appeared to be "around 10 years old," said Maj. Brad Leighton, a military spokesman.
In its statement, the military said that "coalition forces fired a warning shot into a berm near a suspicious woman who appeared to be signaling to someone while the soldiers were in the area. A young girl was found behind the berm suffering from a gunshot wound."
Leighton said preliminary reports indicated that soldiers did not believe the woman was a potential suicide bomber, but rather "they were afraid she was signaling to someone that the convoy was going by."
Also Thursday, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found dead near the city of Mosul, where he had been kidnapped last month, said auxiliary bishop of Baghdad Monsignor Shlemon Warduni said.
Rahho was kidnapped by gunmen soon after he left Mass in Mosul. Three of his companions were killed, the latest in what church members called a series of attacks against Iraq's small Christian community.
The Chaldean church is an Eastern-rite denomination that recognizes the authority of the pope and is aligned with Rome.
The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI was "deeply saddened" by Rahho's death.
"We had all kept hoping and praying for his release," said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi. "Unfortunately the most absurd and senseless violence keeps dogging the Iraqi people, and especially the small Christian community."
In other violence, five members of an Awakening Council were killed when gunmen attacked two separate checkpoints near Tikrit on Thursday, 80 miles north of Baghdad. Nine others were wounded.
A suicide bomber also attacked an Awakening Council gathering in the village of Zab outside Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad. Three people were killed and seven others wounded in that attack.
Awakening Councils are made up of mostly Sunni fighters who have accepted U.S. backing to switch allegiances and fight al-Qaida in Iraq.
Unknown gunmen also killed a correspondent for a Baghdad newspaper. Qassim Abdul-Hussein al-Iqabi, 36, was shot while walking in Baghdad's largely Shiite Karradah neighborhood, police said.
Excluding al-Iqabi, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded at least 127 journalists and 50 media support workers killed since the U.S.-led war began in March 2003.