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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Baghdad Bombing Leaves 135 Dead

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's government on Sunday renewed its pledge to crack down on militants after a massive suicide truck bomb killed 135 people in a mainly Shiite area of Baghdad.

Saturday's attack was the deadliest single bombing since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. It shocked even Iraqis accustomed to the relentless violence that threatens to plunge the country into full-scale sectarian civil war.

In fresh violence, a series of bomb attacks and drive-by shootings killed 16 people in Baghdad on Sunday, police and residents said.

Around 1,000 people have been killed across Iraq in the past week in suicide bombings, shootings and fighting between security forces and militants, according to figures compiled from official sources.

"What did we do?" said one elderly man as he wailed in front of gutted shop fronts and homes in the Sadriya market on Sunday.

Rescue workers picked through bloodstained rubble looking for more bodies. A bulldozer was called in to clear debris from what was left of two- and three-story buildings.

Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, blamed the blast on Saddam Hussein supporters and other Sunni militants. "The government is determined to get rid of the terrorists and the outlaws. Yesterday's bombing is just more evidence of their evil," a senior government source said.

The prime minister vowed in January to launch a crackdown in the capital to crush insurgents who have defied attempts by his government to get control of security, but it has not yet begun.

Similar campaigns have failed in the past.

U.S. President George W. Bush is sending 21,500 reinforcements to Iraq, most of them for the Baghdad offensive, despite vocal opposition at home, especially among Democrats who now control both houses of Congress.

Ordinary Iraqis are frustrated at the government's inability to curb violence. Shiites in Sadriya said the al-Mahdi Army militia of anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr should handle security, not government forces.

"We are fed up with the government falling short in protecting us. After four years our blood still flows," said Abu Sajad, a worker living in the Sadriya area.

More than 300 people were wounded in the Sadriya blast, caused when the bomber drove his truck, packed with one ton of explosives, into the market.

All four U.S. helicopters that have crashed in Iraq since Jan. 20 appear to have been brought down by "some kind" of ground fire, but it is unclear whether this represents any new threat to U.S. aviation, the chief U.S. military spokesman said Sunday, The Associated Press reported.

It was the first time that the U.S. command has publicly acknowledged that the three Army and one private helicopters were probably shot down.