Deadly car bombs ripped through several neighborhoods in and around Baghdad Thursday, killing more than 40 people, many of them children. Officials say a U.S. soldier and two Iraqi police officers were among the dead.
Ambulances and police vehicles were dispatched to several locations in and around Baghdad following a series of car bombings.
In the first incident, a suicide car bomber blew himself up at a compound used by the U.S. military and Iraqi police in the Abu Ghraib neighborhood of Baghdad. An American soldier and at least two Iraqi police officers were killed in the blast. More than a dozen other soldiers and police were injured.
About three hours later, two car bombs detonated at a ribbon cutting ceremony in western Baghdad marking the opening of a water pumping station. A U.S. military convoy was in the vicinity at the time of the explosions. At least one U.S. helicopter helped evacuate the injured. Witnesses say many of the dead were children hit by shrapnel.
Then, about a half kilometer away, another car bomb exploded at an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint.
At about the same time, two car bombs and a roadside bomb exploded as a military convoy was passing by in the northern Iraqi town of Talafar. At least four people were killed and more than a dozen others were injured.
A senior Interior Ministry official said it was believed Thursday's attacks may have been in response to stepped up efforts by the U.S. military to wipe out a terror network associated with the most wanted man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Early Thursday morning, U.S. forces launched an air strike on a suspected militant hideout in Fallujah, west of Baghdad. It was believed the hideout was used by terrorists linked to al-Zarqawi.
Authorities are offering a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture. He is wanted for a series of car bombings, kidnappings and other attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi citizens.
Iraqi officials believe al-Zarqawi's goal is to start a civil war in Iraq.
U.S. officials said Thursday's air strike produced what they called a "significant" secondary blast as the result of a cache of illegal weapons stored in the suspected hideout.