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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Latest Iraq Bombing Kills Up to 46

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A suicide attacker blew up a car packed with explosives in a crowd of hundreds of Iraqis waiting outside an army recruiting center Wednesday, killing up to 46 people, officials and witnesses said, in the second bombing in two days targeting Iraqis working with the U.S.-led coalition.

The attack, which occurred a day after a suicide bombing against a police station south of Baghdad that killed up to 53 people, fueled warnings that insurgents are stepping up violence to disrupt the planned July 1 handover of power to the Iraqis.

"This could be ... part of the ongoing pattern of intimidation we've seen of late," Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the military's deputy operations chief in Baghdad, said in an e-mail interview. "We have stated numerous times that in the lead-up to governance, there could be an uptick in the violence."

Colonel Ralph Baker of the 1st Armored Division said there was no immediate indication who was behind Wednesday's attack, but he said it resembled "the operating technique" of al-Qaida or Ansar al-Islam, a radical Muslim group linked to Osama bin Laden's terror network.

The 7:25 a.m. blast tore into would-be army volunteers waiting outside the recruitment center less than 2 kilometers from the heavily fortified green zone, where the U.S. administration has its headquarters. Baker said a man driving a white 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra detonated about 135 to 225 kilograms of explosives.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that 46 people were killed and 54 wounded. Iraq's deputy interior minister, Ahmed Ibrahim, told reporters "this crime" will "not deter the people's march toward freedom." Major John Frisbie, spokesman of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, put the toll at 36 dead.

Charred debris from the vehicle was scattered across the road in front of the center as a heavy rain soaked troops and FBI agents looking for evidence at the blast scene.

The recruitment center was surrounded by barbed wire and had sandbagged posts in front of it. But around 300 Iraqis were gathered outside the center's locked gates, waiting for it to open, and were completely exposed. Some of them had lined up to join the military and others were waiting to depart for a training camp in Jordan.

"I was just telling my buddy that it was very dangerous to be standing here," said Ali Hussein, 22, who was lined up with the others. He lay on a bed soaked in his blood at Karkh Hospital, his body shaking as he gasped for air. He said he saw a white Oldsmobile approaching the crowd. "Then I felt nothing but fire around me." His legs were covered in bandages, and he had broken bones.

It was at least the ninth vehicle bombing in Iraq this year. U.S. forces have been preparing the Iraqi police and military to take a larger role in battling the anti-U.S. insurgency that has been blamed on supporters of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and foreign Islamic militants.

Tuesday and Wednesday's blasts came as a UN team was visiting Iraq, trying to work out differences between Iraqi factions on how to pick a new government ahead of the planned transfer of sovereignty. Frisbie said the attackers seek to make the world think Baghdad is unstable, "especially in the eyes of the visiting UN."

At Karkh Hospital, relatives outside the gates shouted the names of missing loved ones to officials inside.

The morgue's two refrigerators were stacked full of bodies, wrapped in blood-soaked sheets and piled atop each other. Only one of the refrigerators was working, and the room reeked with the smell of the dead.

At least five more bodies lay outside in a hospital courtyard, with the rain pounding the plastic sheets they were wrapped in. Also strewn about the courtyard were plastic bags filled with body parts.

Fadhil Daoud, 42, wandered the courtyard, looking for the body of a cousin who had been in line, looking to join the military because he had no other income. "All the bodies are burned. This is the second hospital I've been to and I can't find him," Daoud said. "This is a very gruesome scene. No Muslim could have caused this."