At least 75 people died today when a car bomb exploded near a Shia mosque in a busy commercial district of Baghdad after a period of relative calm in the Iraqi capital.The explosion, which also injured more than 200 people, sent smoke billowing over central Baghdad. The attack followed a four-day curfew imposed last week in the wake of an attack on a Shia shrine in the city of Samarra.One witness said a suicide bomber driving a truck rammed his vehicle into the mosque, destroying one of its walls and badly damaging the rest of the building. The explosion was so powerful it rattled windows across the city centre.
Separately, the US deployed 10,000 soldiers backed by attack helicopters in an offensive against al-Qaida north of Baghdad, around the city of Baquba in Diyala province, a stronghold of Sunni extremists.
One of the biggest military operations since the invasion in March 2003, the campaign is partly aimed at dismantling car bomb networks that have wreaked havoc in Baghdad and elsewhere.
Gunfire erupted shortly after the latest bomb attack in Baghdad at the Khillani mosque in the commercial area of Sinak, just before 2pm. The Sinak area has been hit before: a suicide car bomber killed at least 21 people in May.
In other violence, a roadside bomb killed the head of a Shia tribe and two people travelling with him near Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, local police said.
Separately, the US military announced the death of an American soldier who was killed by small arms fire in eastern Baghdad.
No other soldiers were wounded in the attack, which took place yesterday. The death brought to at least 3,528 the number of US military personnel who have died since the beginning of the war, in March 2003.