BAGHDAD — A car bomb in a sleepy southern Iraq town killed at least 30 people and wounded another 65 on Wednesday, police and witnesses said. The blast prompted angry accusations from residents that local authorities had failed to keep them safe.
The explosives in a car parked by a street market detonated about 9:30 a.m. as shoppers packed the indoor shops and stalls in Bathaa, about 20 miles northwest of Nasiriyah.
"I was astonished that such an incident actually happened here," said resident Wael Thageel. "It's the first of its kind; maybe in Nasiriyah or Baghdad, but never here. This is a quiet, peaceful town."
An angry crowd gathered after the blast and denounced security officials for not preventing the attack. One person was wounded when police broke up the protest by firing warning shots, said a police officer from Nasiriyah.
The officer added that the Bathaa police chief had been suspended and an investigation had been ordered by the police commander of Dhi Qar province. He denied reports on Iraqi television that the chief had been fired by the provincial governor.
The explosion came less than three weeks before U.S. forces are scheduled to turn over security duties in cities to Iraqi forces.
Contractors freed: Iraqi police Wednesday released three of the five U.S. contractors who were detained last week in connection with the slaying last month of an American in Baghdad's Green Zone enclave, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official. The men had been freed on bail but were forbidden from leaving Iraq during the investigation into the death of Jim Kitterman, a 60-year-old construction contractor from Texas, said Rafae Munahe, a senior adviser to Interior Minister Jawad Bolani. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said it had no information about the matter.