|Hilla, 95km south of Baghdad, has been previously targeted by blasts in the post-invasion sectarian violence [Reuters]
At least 18 people have been killed in Iraq and dozens more wounded after a large car bomb exploded among mourners at a Shia Muslim funeral in the city of Hilla, 95km south of Baghdad, police and hospital officials say.
Friday's blast left burned bodies and damaged vehicles scattered near a mosque where relatives had gathered in a tent for the funeral of a local sheikh, according to witnesses.
A similar attack in May left at least 16 people dead.
"Suddenly the place turned into hell," Haider Qahtan, 37, said.
Haider, whose hand was injured in the blast, said: "All my relatives were cut down and their bodies were burned."
Mohammed Ali, a 42-year-old farmer who was inside the mosque when the bomb went off, said: "I heard the blast, then was hit by glass from windows and my hand was bleeding severely.
"I blame the security forces for such a horrible breach. How can such a thing happen? Where were they?"
A member of the provincial council, Mansour al-Maniaa, said the council would hold an emergency session on Saturday to discuss the explosion.
"This is a security breach that the security apparatus should be held accountable for," he said. "This area had weak security protection, therefore terrorists easily reached and targeted it."
The explosion triggered new anger at Iraq's leaders and their armed forces, who will soon assume responsibility for the country's security on their own as US forces prepare to leave the country.
Violence in Iraq has eased since sectarian strife took the country to the brink of civil war a few years after the 2003 US invasion. But Sunni Muslim fighters tied to al-Qaeda and Shia Muslim groups stage attacks almost on a daily basis.
Hilla is a mainly Shia city on a route used by pilgrims visiting Muslim holy sites to the south.
Recent attacks and incidents in the Sunni heartland of Anbar in western Iraq and in the holy city of Karbala have triggered worries of resurgent sectarian violence and tensions over who controls disputed areas.
US troops are scheduled to pull out when a security pact expires on December 31, more than eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
About 44,000 US troops are still in Iraq mainly advising and assisting the Iraqi forces.
US and Iraqi officials say local armed forces are capable of containing the anti-government armed groups.
But US trainers may stay on to help Iraq's military fill some capability gaps such as air and maritime defence, they say.