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A female suicide bomber blew herself up at the main pet market in central Baghdad, killing at least 46 people and wounding dozens in the deadliest bombing to strike the capital since 30,000 more American troops began flooding into central Iraq last spring, police said.
About 20 minutes later, a second female suicide bomber struck another bird market in a predominantly Shiite area in southeastern Baghdad. That blast killed at least 18 people and wounded 25, police said.
The attacks shortly before the weekly Islamic call to prayer resounded across the capital were the latest in a series of violent incidents that have been chipping away at Iraqi confidence in the permanence of recent security gains.
The first blast occurred about 10:20 a.m. when the woman detonated explosives hidden under her traditional black robe at the central al-Ghazl market. The pet bazaar had recently re-emerged as a popular shopping venue as Baghdad security improved and a Friday ban on driving was lifted.
Firefighters scooped up debris scattered among pools of blood, clothing and pigeon carcasses.
Police initially said the bomb was hidden in a box of birds but later determined it was a suicide attack after finding the woman’s head, an officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.
Female suicide bombing is widely believed to be a tool increasingly used by al-Qaida in Iraq.
Many teenage boys were among the 46 people killed and 82 wounded in al-Ghazl, according to police and hospital officials. It was the deadliest explosion in the capital since an April 18 car bombing killed 116 and wounded 145 in central Baghdad.
A bomb hidden in a box of small birds also exploded at the al-Ghazl market in late November, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens. The U.S. military blamed the November attack on Iranian-backed Shiite militants, saying they had hoped al-Qaida in Iraq would be held responsible for the attack so Iraqis would turn to them for protection.
There were conflicting details about the second blast in the New Baghdad area.
The U.S. military said initial reporting indicated it was a suicide car bombing carried out by a woman, but Iraqi police said the female attacker detonated an explosives belt at the entrance to the bazaar.
Casualty tolls also differed, with the military saying about 10 people were killed and 20 wounded and Iraqi police reporting 18 killed and 25 wounded.