A suicide bomber blew up his car outside a hospital south of Baghdad on Thursday while U.S. troops handed out candy and food to children, killing 30 people and wounding about 40, including four Americans. As U.S. troops spent another Thanksgiving at war, two soldiers died in another bombing near the capital, and the U.S. command said four American deaths occurred Wednesday.
Elsewhere, 11 Iraqis were killed and 17 injured Thursday when a car bomb exploded near a crowded soft drink stand in Hillah, a mostly Shiite Muslim city 60 miles south of Baghdad. More than 200 people mostly Shiites have died from suicide attacks and car bombs since Friday.
Amid the bloodshed, at least four insurgent groups reportedly were mulling a government offer to talk peace a hopeful sign for efforts to end an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
Three women and two children were among the dead in the attack outside the hospital in Mahmoudiya, a flashpoint town 20 miles south of Baghdad in the "triangle of death" notorious for attacks on Shiite Muslims, U.S. troops and foreign travelers. A civil affairs team from the U.S. Army's Task Force Baghdad was at the hospital studying ways to upgrade the facility when the bomber struck just outside the guarded compound, a U.S. military statement said.
Some American soldiers were distributing toys and food to children when the attack occurred about 10:40 a.m., Iraqi police Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said. "There was an explosion at the gate of the hospital," sobbed one woman with wounds on her face and legs. "My children are gone. My brother is gone."
The two U.S. soldiers killed Thursday died when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb southwest of the capital, a U.S. statement said. Four more American soldiers were killed Wednesday three in the Baghdad area and one in Hit, 85 miles west of the capital in the Euphrates River valley, the command said.
At least 2,103 U.S. military personnel have died since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The AP count is five lower than the Defense Department's tally, which was last updated at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, reports the AP. I.L.