A suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt in a bus as it was about to depart Thursday for a Shiite city in the south, killing up to 30 people and wounding nearly 40, police and hospital officials said. Most of the dead were in the bus, which was gutted by flames, and the rest were gathered around a food stall nearby, police said at the scene. Kindi hospital said at least 37 were injured.
Police said the attacker waited until the bus was pulling away slowly from the station, then jumped on board to avoid security checks. The blast occurred a week before national elections, and officials had warned of a surge in violence ahead of the balloting. Several other explosions rumbled through the heart of the capital Thursday morning. Witnesses told police that the attacker left a car and climbed onto the bus and blew himself up as the bus was about to leave for Nasiriyah, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police Lt. Ali Mitaab said. Fire swept through the bus following the blast, trapping passengers. Their charred corpses remained in their seats, their faces starring out through the shattered windows. Police climbed over the top of the vehicle inspecting what remained of luggage.
"As the bus was going outside the station, a man carrying a bag tried to got into the bus, but the conductor was suspicious about him," police Lt. Wisam Hakim said. "He tried to stop him but the man insisted. He sat in the middle of the bus and then the explosion took place." The attack occurred at the major bus station for vehicles headed to the mostly Shiite areas of the south, reports the AP. N.U.