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Iraq Transition

Car bomb attack near Shiite shrines kills dozens

Story Highlights

• NEW: 170 injured in the blast, police say
Seven U.S. soldiers, 2 Marines killed in two days
Al-Sadr letter castigates Bush for conduct of war and occupation
• Apparent suicide car bomb kills 58 in Karbala, south of Baghdad
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A suicide car bomber attacked between two Shiite shrines in the Iraqi city of Karbala Saturday, killing at least 58 people and wounding 170, a police spokesman said.

Authorities imposed a vehicle ban until further notice.

TV images showed emergency vehicles rushing to the site in the early evening as plumes of smoke rose into the air. (Watch smoke pour into the sky after the bombing Video)

The bombing occurred as people were heading to evening prayers. After the blast, enraged residents accused police of failing to protect them, and there were reports of stone-throwing.

Karbala, south of Baghdad in Iraq's Shiite heartland, is one of the world's holiest Shiite cities.

It is frequently visited by Shiite pilgrims, drawn to the Imam Hussein shrine.

Saturday's attack occurred near that shrine and the Imam Abbas shrine.

The Imam Hussein shrine honors Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, who was killed in a battle in Karbala in the seventh century. His martyrdom is commemorated by Shiites every year during Ashura.

Abbas, his half-brother, is revered for fighting by his side. Their tombs are in the respective shrines.

Karbala has not seen the level of daily violence that has swept Baghdad and other cities, but it has been the scene of some major attacks.

On April 14, a car bombing in Karbala killed 44 people and wounded scores more. (Full story)

And a cell that has alleged links to Iran has been implicated by the U.S. military in a January attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers.

Al-Sadr letter decries Bush's 'reckless actions'

An Iraqi parliament member who is an ally of Muqtada al-Sadr read a scathing open letter to President Bush from the radical Shiite cleric Saturday.

Al-Sadr castigated Bush for keeping troops in Iraq and compared the occupation to the regime of "the destructor," Saddam Hussein.

"You ruined the reputation of Westerners in the East, and if no one told you that, I am now. All this is because of your reckless actions," the letter read.

Al-Sadr asked why Iraqis have to suffer "if you had a tower destroyed," a reference to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"If Saddam destroyed it, he is now burning in hell; if it was terrorists, as you claim, you are the one who opened Iraq's door wide open for them to kill our people so you can live in peace. Is this what you want?"

The White House has no comment on al-Sadr's letter, spokesman Tony Fratto said.

7 U.S. soldiers, 2 Marines killed

Seven U.S. soldiers and two Marines were killed Friday and Saturday in Iraq, the U.S. military said Saturday.

On Saturday, three soldiers died and another was wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad, the military said. The soldiers were assigned to Task Force Marne.

Also on Saturday, a fourth Task Force Marne soldier died and two others were wounded in another roadside bombing south of Baghdad.

On Friday, three soldiers and the two Marines were killed during combat in Iraq's restive Anbar province, the U.S. military said Saturday. The troops were assigned to Multi-National Force-West. No further information on the incident was released.

The soldiers' and Marines' names were withheld pending notification of relatives.

The deaths bring to 3,338 the number of U.S. service members killed since the Iraq war began. Seven U.S. contractors also have been killed.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, Ingrid Formanek and Hugh Riminton contributed to this report.


story.karbala3.afp.gi.jpg

A crowd gathers around the wreckage of a deadly car bombing Saturday in Karbala, south of Baghdad in Iraq's Shiite heartland.

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