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Car Bombing in Iraq Kills at Least 68 - 2004-07-28

The Iraqi health ministry says a suicide car bombing in the city of Baqubah has killed at least 68 people and wounded many more. The blast is the deadliest attack since the June handover of power to Iraq's interim government.

The powerful blast ripped through a busy market near a police recruiting center in Baqubah, about 50 kilometers north of Baghdad.

Many of the dead were waiting in line to sign up for the local police force. Iraqi officials say at least 21 of the victims were riding on a bus that was passing by when the bomb exploded. Witnesses describe a scene of devastation as the street became a bloody tangle of charred metal and broken glass.

Bus driver Mohammad Abid says he saw the site before leaving for his daily trip to Baghdad.

He says the minibus was completely burned and a car was torn apart by the bomb. He says he saw the victims' bodies flung everywhere, and everyone inside the minibus was killed.

Hospital officials say scores were wounded. It is the highest death toll of any insurgent attack since shortly before the handover of Iraqi sovereignty one month ago.

There was a lull in the violence immediately after the handover, but since then the bombings and assassinations have resumed. Kidnappings have skyrocketed.

Mr. Abid does not have much faith in the authorities' ability to stop the insurgents.

He says he does not think the new government will be able to control the situation because bombings are still happening all over the country, so nothing has changed.

Elsewhere in Iraq, the Polish military says a gun battle erupted between insurgents and coalition and Iraqi troops near the southern city of Babylon, in the Polish-controlled zone. A coalition statement says Iraqi troops killed 35 guerrillas and captured more than 40. The battle killed seven Iraqi soldiers and wounded 10 others.

The upsurge in violence comes just days before a thousand prominent Iraqis are expected to select a new National Council at a conference scheduled for Saturday. The 100-member council is supposed to act as a watchdog over the interim government.