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31 dead in Iraq blast; VP threatens to quit

At least 50 others were wounded when a bomb exploded in Baghdad's Sadr City, a bastion of Shiite militia fighters.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2006 12:22 IST

A bomb targeting poor Iraqi Shiites lining up for day jobs in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City killed at least 31 people and injured more than 50 others, police said.

The bomb tore through a collection of food stalls and kiosks at about 6:15 am, cutting down men who gather there daily hoping to be hired as labourers.

Police Maj Hashim al-Yasiri put the casualty figure at 31 killed and 51 injured.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the blast was caused by a suicide bomber or a device concealed amid debris by the roadside.

Political tension deepened in Baghdad when Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's ranking Sunni politician, threatened to resign if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not act fast to eradicate two feared militia groups.

Al-Maliki depends heavily on the backing of a pair of Shiite political organisations and has resisted concerted American pressure to eradicate their private armies - the Mahdi Army of radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Brigade, the military wing of Iraq's most powerful Shiite political bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.

The gunmen, especially those of the Mahdi Army, are deeply involved in the sectarian killings that have brutalised Iraqis in Baghdad and central Iraq for months.

Monday's blast came after suspected Sunni gunmen killed 23 policemen, including 17 in one attack in the predominantly Shiite southern city of Basra on Sunday, signaling the possible start an all-out insurgent campaign against Iraq's predominantly Shiite security forces.

The sharp uptick in violence against the mainly Shiite security apparatus coincided with US efforts to bring the country's Sunni insurgents into a reconciliation process and an embarrassing public squabble with al-Maliki over a proposed timeline to crush the militias and move forward with political measures to benefit the disaffected Sunni minority.

In the Basra kidnap-murders, gunmen dragged 15 policemen and two translators - instructors at the Basra police academy - off a bus at the edge of the city yesterday afternoon.

Their bodies were found dumped throughout the city beginning about four hours later.

First Published: Oct 30, 2006 11:19 IST