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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bomber Kills 22 at Baghdad College

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed at least 22 people in a Baghdad college Sunday, a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed optimism about a security crackdown in the capital.

Guards stopped the bomber in the reception lobby of the Baghdad Economy and Administration College, but the man managed to blow himself up, police said.

One senior police official put the death toll at 40, with 35 people wounded. Another police source said 22 people had died. Most of the victims were students, witnesses said

"May God curse the terrorists," shouted some students after the attack. Others sat outside weeping.

A string of car bombings and rocket salvos also hit Baghdad on Sunday as insurgents defied efforts by U.S. and Iraqi security forces to stabilize the capital.

A professor said the attack happened as students were leaving morning classes and arriving for afternoon lessons. Others doing exams were wounded by flying glass, which tore through their classroom, the professor said.

"There were bodies everywhere," said the professor, who declined to be identified.

The blast left large pools of blood in the college's reception area. Textbooks and pens lay scattered on the floor.

The college is part of nearby Mustansiriya University, which was hit by twin bomb attacks last month that killed 70 people, mainly students.

Insurgents have repeatedly attacked universities and colleges in Baghdad, trying to strike fear into the city's middle class. Many college professors and intellectuals have also been killed.

In a bold challenge to the security crackdown in Baghdad, regarded as a last chance to reverse Iraq's descent into civil war, gunmen stormed a police checkpoint near Baghdad airport Saturday, killing eight policemen.

Maliki expressed optimism Saturday about the 10-day security plan and said U.S. and Iraqi forces had killed about 400 suspected militants since it began.

U.S. military officers have said they expect an increase in the use of suicide vests after security forces set up more checkpoints on Baghdad's roads to search vehicles and prevent car bombs.

Among the attacks Sunday, rockets and mortar bombs crashed into a market in a Shiite area in southern Baghdad and there were conflicting reports about casualties, police said.

One police source said 10 people were killed in the attack in the Abu Dsher area of Doura neighborhood. Two other police sources said no more than three people had been wounded.

A car bomb also killed one person and wounded four in central Baghdad, not far from the Iranian Embassy, police said.

Police said the diplomatic mission did not appear to have been the target. The embassy compound was not damaged.

U.S. forces have set up joint security outposts with Iraqi forces around the city and the crackdown does appear to have reduced the number of bodies found of people tortured and shot in the city, the apparent victims of death squads.