A car bomb exploded Wednesday near several restaurants in a Shiite neighborhood of northwest Baghdad, killing41 people and injuring more than 70, police and hospital officials said.
No group claimed responsibility for the horrific blast but the style and location of the attack suggested it was carried out by Sunni extremists, such as al-Qaida in Iraq, in an apparent bid tore kindle sectarian warfare as the U.
S.
draws down forces in the capital.
The blast appeared timed for maximum civilian casualties, going off about 7 p.
m.
when many Baghdad residents take advantage of cooler evening temperatures for shopping and dining in outdoor kebab restaurants.
It was the first major car-bombing in the capital since May 6,when 15 people were killed at a produce market in south Baghdad, and the deadliest in the city since twin car blasts killed 51 people in another Shiite neighborhood, Sadr City, on April 29.
Nearly 200 people were killed in major bombings in Baghdad alone last month.
That has raised concern about security in the capital ahead of a June 30 deadline for the U.
S.
to remove all combat forces from Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
Police said the blast happened in Shula, a sprawling neighborhood which had been a stronghold of Shiite militias including the Mahdi Army during the height of sectarian fighting two years ago.
Witnesses said the blast occurred about 300 yards (meters) from an Iraqi security forces checkpoint.
Police and hospital officials said 41 people were killed and 76wounded.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
A witness who gave only his nickname Abu Ahmed, or Father of Ahmed, said a small truck carrying vegetables parked near a restaurant at Sadra in Square and the driver disappeared.
After five minutes, the car exploded, killing men, women and children.
I helped transfer many injured persons, despite my wounds, said Abu Ahmed, who was injured by shrapnel in his hands.
I saw pools of blood everywhere.
More than 10 cars were damaged near the scene.