BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A car bomb in a busy Baghdad market killed 25 people and wounded 60 on Tuesday, while parliament adjourned without any action on constitutional reforms aimed at stopping sectarian violence.
The bombing at a popular outdoor market in southwestern Amil was Baghdad’s worst car bombing since 35 people died on May 6 in nearby Bayaa, another Shi‘ite district repeatedly targeted in attacks blamed on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.
Thousands of extra U.S. and Iraqi troops have been deployed around Baghdad and other areas in a three-month-old security crackdown aimed at dragging Iraq back from the brink of sectarian civil war.
U.S. President George W. Bush is under pressure from his Republican Party to show progress in Iraq by September, but at the same time has rejected timetables for a U.S. pullout proposed by Democrats.
General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, will deliver a progress report on the build-up in September.
“I see it as an important moment, because David Petraeus says that’s when he’ll have a pretty good assessment as to what the effects of the surge has been,” Bush told Reuters in Washington.
The security crackdown is meant to buy time for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government to meet a series of political targets set by Washington.
Parliament sat on Tuesday but was adjourned without addressing the constitutional reforms, which include a crucial revenue-sharing oil law and a law that would allow former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party to hold public office.
After six months of talks, a constitutional reform committee had been expected to present parliament with a final draft of their recommendations.
“We have agreed on some articles but there are sensitive issues which need an agreement among the political leaders,” said Saleem al-Jubouri, a member of the Accordance Front, the biggest Sunni political bloc in parliament.
Washington’s “benchmarks” aim to promote national reconciliation and to draw Sunni Arabs, dominant under Saddam, into the political process and away from the insurgency.
Sunni Arabs, who make up the backbone of the insurgency, have long demanded changes to a constitution they say concedes too much power to Shi‘ites and ethnic Kurds.
Non-Arab Kurds from Iraq’s oil-producing north in turn worry about the constitution’s wording on the Arab identity of Iraq.
U.S. officials say the security crackdown has helped reduce the number of targeted sectarian killings between Sunni Arabs and majority Shi‘ites but car bombings are still frequent.
Television footage showed cars and shops on fire in the commercial area of Amil district.
One body lay covered by a yellow sheet, while others were carried out of the rubble in blankets. Other shaken residents clambered down the sides of partially destroyed buildings.
“There was a blast. It killed a large number of innocent people, poor people who worked to earn a living,” one man told Reuters Television.
In other violence on Tuesday, gunmen at a fake military checkpoint shot dead a family of six, including an infant, in Baquba, police said.
Baquba is the capital of the volatile Diyala, a large and religiously mixed province which has suffered some of the worst violence since the 2003 invasion. Shootings of young children are still rare despite the extent of violence in Iraq.
Gunmen also opened fire on a minibus carrying college students in northern Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least eight and wounding another three, police said.
With additional reporting by Aseel Kami, Faris al-Mehdawi and Mussab Al-Khairalla in Baghdad and Steve Holland in Washington