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Iraq Transition

Suicide bombers kill 61 in market attack

Story Highlights

• Suicide bombers hit Hilla market at busy shopping time
• Curfew imposed on Najaf, site of deadly weekend battle
• Almost 2,000 civilians killed in Iraq last month
• U.S. Senate anti-surge deal draws fire; Gen. Casey faces tough questions
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in a crowded market Thursday evening in Hilla, Iraq, killing 61 people and wounding 150, police said.

Hilla -- south of Baghdad -- is the provincial capital of Iraq's Babil province. The attack was carried out on the start of the Muslim weekend, when people customarily go to marketplaces.

Police said officers began to stop one of the bombers, suspecting him of wearing an explosives vest. But the bomber detonated before police reached him. The other detonated soon after.

In February 2005, a car bomb targeting police recruits waiting to get physical examinations killed 125 people in Hilla in one of the deadliest attacks of the war. (Look back at that attack)

Elsewhere, gunmen and bombers targeted college students and faculty members in Baghdad, Tikrit and Baquba, authorities said Thursday. Eight people were killed and others were wounded.

Six passengers were killed and eight were wounded Thursday afternoon when a bomb blast ripped through a bus on a commercial street in a Shiite neighborhood in central Baghdad, a Baghdad police official said.

Four other Iraqis were killed and more were wounded in other bombings and mortar attacks on Thursday. (Watch how U.S. tactics must evolve to keep up Video)

The U.S. military said coalition forces killed a person tied to foreign-fighter activities and detained 29 suspected terrorists Thursday, during raids launched throughout the capital and in the country's western and northern regions.

Police in the southern Iraqi province of Najaf imposed a curfew Thursday night. Last weekend, Najaf was the scene of bloody battles that pitched Iraqi and U.S. troops against what Iraq's government called a violent messianic Shiite cult.

Police said the curfew bans vehicle and pedestrian movement. It is starting at 10 p.m. and will last until until further notice.

Iraq's government spokesman on Thursday dismissed reports that the battle in Najaf province was the result of tribal conflict, and repeated the position that fighting was sparked by the Shiite cult.

2,000 civilians killed in January

Nearly 2,000 civilians were killed violently last month in Iraq, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

The source Thursday issued countrywide death toll statistics for the month of January, gathered from the Interior, Defense and Health ministries.

He said 1,990 civilians were killed last month in violence across the country, which includes the number of bodies recovered by security forces. Around 1,936 civilians were wounded.

As for security forces, 41 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 58 Iraqi soldiers were wounded, 59 police were killed and 144 others were wounded.

There were 593 terrorists suspects killed and 926 detained.

Last month's statistics, supplied by the same source, list the deaths of 1,927 civilians, 124 police, 24 soldiers, and 315 "terrorists" across Iraq.

Other developments

  • Senators from both sides of the debate on Thursday criticized a nonbinding resolution agreed upon a day earlier by leading Democrats and a top Republican "disagreeing" with President Bush's new Iraq strategy. Bush allies scrambled to prevent more defections, while Democratic Sens. Christopher Dodd and Russ Feingold opposed the measure as too weak. (Full story)
  • Gen. George Casey, nominated for the post of Army chief of staff, faced severe questions Thursday from senators about the strategies he implemented when he was the commander of U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq. Casey said he believed Bush's new Iraq strategy could be implemented with only two brigades rather than the five brigades that are being sent. (Full story)
  • A report from the Congressional Budget Office says Bush's plan for a troop increase in Iraq could cost up to $27 billion for a 12-month deployment. The plan could mean sending thousands of support troops in addition to the 20,000-plus combat troops the Defense Department has set for deployment. The White House estimated that the troop increase would cost $5.6 billion. (Full story)
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.


    story.iraq.blast.afp.gi.jpg

    A police officer stands guard at the scene of an explosion in Rusafi Square in Baghdad on Thursday that killed six.

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