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Blasts Rock Baghdad; Dozens Dead and Injured


A car bomb and mortar attack on an upscale Baghdad neighborhood has killed at least 31 people and wounded more than 115 others. The latest violence comes as the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was adjourned until October, when the court will decide whether he is guilty of ordering the executions of 148 Shiite men.

The attack in the mostly Shiite Karrada district of Baghdad came at mid-morning, causing many casualties and severely damaging shops and buildings.

Interior Ministry officials fear the death toll could rise. One building collapsed in the attack and more casualties could be trapped in the rubble.

The car bomb reportedly exploded near a gasoline station, and the flames and debris blanketed the normally busy commercial district.

Thursday's attack comes as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki heads home from Washington, where he held talks with President Bush and addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.

During the visit, the leaders approved plans to deploy more U.S. and Iraqi troops to the capital city to curb sectarian violence that has been escalating since an attack on a Shiite shrine in February.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was adjourned until October 16. Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for ordering the killings of 148 Shiite men from the town of Dujail in 1982. The men where executed after a failed assassination attempt on Saddam.

Saddam and two of his co-defendants face death by hanging if they are found guilty.

Saddam was not present for Thursdays proceedings, as his court-appointed lawyer read his closing statement during Wednesday's session.

On Wednesday, Saddam asked the Tribunal if he is sentenced to death, to execute him by a firing squad, instead of hanging him, as he is a soldier, and not like a petty criminal.

But two co-defendants were present Thursday and both had terse exchanges with the judge.

Former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told the judge, "I am innocent. I know my sentence has been decided and I accept the fate God has decided for me." The judge interrupted him, telling him, his sentence would be passed after all the legal proceedings have been completed.

Also present was defendant Awad al-Bandar, a revolutionary court judge who sentenced the Shiites to death. After a testy exchange with the judge, Al-Bandar tried to leave the courtroom and had to be restrained by guards.