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Suicide Bomber Kills 40 at Baghdad College


Iraqi officials say a suicide bomber has killed at least 40 people and wounded more than 30 others in an attack on a Baghdad University. The incident was the largest of several bombings and rocket attacks in the Iraqi capital. Barry Newhouse reports from northern Iraq.

Witnesses at the branch of Baghdad's Mustansiriya University said a woman detonated a suicide bomb vest when she was confronted by security officers near the entrance.

Witnesses said the explosion unleashed hot shrapnel that maimed dozens of people nearby, pierced cars and scarred cement walls. Many of the victims are believed to be students who were preparing to take exams.

One man wearing a blood-soaked shirt expressed disbelief at the attack in an interview broadcast on Iraqi television.

He says, "What can I say to you? I picked up so many pieces - legs, hands. What do they need from these people? They are only students. They came here only to take a test. What kind of Muslim did this?"

The university is located in a mainly Shi'ite neighborhood northeast of Baghdad.

In another Shi'ite neighborhood in central Baghdad, a car bombing killed at least one person and wounded four others. Earlier, a rocket attack on a Shi'ite neighborhood in southern Baghdad killed at least 10 people.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials have expressed optimism about their Baghdad security operation. Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie appeared on on CNN's Late Edition program.

"We have already seen some good signs of the success of this plan. We have a reductin in the violence; we have a huge, considerable reduction in the execution-style killings, and the IEDs," he said. "And we have got the confidence of our people. But we should look into [at] this plan in terms of months. Probably we will see a tangible success by Easter."

Iraqi military officials say more than 900 families have returned to their homes in Baghdad since the operation began.

Iraq's Kurdish President Jalal Talabani explained why he thinks this push to restore security will be different from previous attempts.

Talabani says he thinks the plan will have about a 70 percent chance of success. He says the increased number of troops involved allow them to cover more of Baghdad's Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhoods.

He also says Shi'ite militia leader Moqtada al Sadr has ordered his Mahdi Army forces to stop their operations.

Speculation has surrounded the motives and plans of Moqtada al Sadr, a key political backer of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the leader of one of Baghdad's most powerful Shi'ite militias.

An official from his office in Baghdad's Sadr city read a statement before thousands of local supporters in which the Shi'ite cleric urged Iraqi army and police forces not to allow sectarian agendas to influence the security operation. But the statement also criticized security plans controlled by what he called "enemy occupiers."