However, medicals sources told our correspondent that at least 17 were killed and 60 wounded.

 

The correspondent said the car exploded around 9.30pm (18:30 GMT) on Saturday in a crowded street. 

 

Eyewitnesses said Iraqi policemen or occupation forces were not present in the area at the time. 

"It could not be confirmed whether the car was parked or driven in by a human bomber," said the correspondent, adding that many cars were burnt and some shops destroyed in the blast.

 

Politician wounded

 

Also on Saturday, a car bomb in northern Iraq wounded a Kurdish politician even as the offices of the interim prime minister and a Shia political party came under attack.

 

The car bomb blast in the Kurdish city of Irbil wounded the Kurdistan Democratic Party's culture minister Mahmud Muhammad and killed one of his bodyguards, reported Aljazeera's correspondent Ahmad Zawiti.


Another 40 people were wounded in Saturday's blast. The car bomb exploded outside the KDP's Culture Ministry in the northern Kurdish city, some 350km north of Baghdad. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, reported Zawiti.

 

Also in the north, assailants ambushed a police patrol near Kirkuk, killing a policeman and wounding another.

 

The US-led occupation is expecting more attacks ahead of the handover of power to Iraqis on 30 June. The bombing in Irbil follows bloody operations in five Iraqi cities that killed about 100 people on Thursday.

 

Political offices attacked

 

In the strife-ridden northeastern city of Baquba, assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at the offices of the Supreme
Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said party member Maitham Ibrahim. 

More than 20 people have died in
Baquba in the last two days

An assailant entered the
offices and detonated explosives, killing himself, three party members and a bystander, according to Aljazeera's correspondent Salah Hasan.

Another two people were injured.

Another four assailants who tried to attack a government building in the tense town were killed by security guards.

 

Shortly after, a police station came under attack, prompting police to return fire. Two assailants were left dead.


In a fourth attack armed men stormed the offices of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's political party, the National Accord Movement, setting off an explosion before fleeing, witnesses said. No one was hurt.

 

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The strikes underscored the deep political and religious friction afflicting the country more than a year after the occupation.

A US occupation soldier has also died of wounds sustained in a resistance attack on a patrol in central Baghdad, said the military on Saturday. It was not clear when the incident occurred.