BAGHDAD: A car bomb exploded at a funeral in a Shi’ite part of the Iraqi capital Thursday, killing at least 35 people, wounding dozens and triggering clashes between angry residents and police, health and security sources said.
Iraqi Deputy Health Minister Khamis al-Saad said 35 people were killed and 65 wounded.
An official at a hospital gave the same death toll after the explosion in the Shula district, a former stronghold of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr but now thought to be controlled by a violent splinter group called Asaib al-Haq.
The blast was the latest in a series of bombings in Iraq that have killed more than 100 people in the past two weeks.
Suspected insurgents launched three days of suicide attacks against police and police recruits last week and planted car bombs targeting Shi’ite pilgrims streaming into the holy Shi’ite city of Kerbala in southern Iraq for a major religious rite.
The violence challenges the newly reappointed Shi’ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
It also undermines confidence in the Iraqi security forces as US troops prepare to withdraw this year, eight years after the US-led invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
Armed clashes broke out in Shula, in northwest Baghdad, after the bomb blast at the funeral, local officials and eyewitnesses said.
“People were angry after the explosion. They charged out into the streets to protest against the security forces,” said Nasser al-Sadi, the manager of Sadr’s office in Shula.
“The police opened fire against them or to disperse them, and then some of the people responded by shooting back,” said Sadi.
He said the gunfire had since died down. Security forces poured into the area, told people to stay at home and were searching for the protesters who fired at police, he said.
An eyewitness who asked not to be identified said the police had fired into the air to disperse the angry crowds but then came under attack from gunmen. “Of course the police returned fire,” the eyewitness said.
It was unclear if anyone was hurt in the shooting.
At least four other fatal bombings struck the Iraqi capital on Thursday.