A car bomb exploded in a livestock market in Iraq’s southern Babil province on Thursday, killing 12 people, wounding 40 and shattering a peace that had held in the area for some time, police said.
The blast in Hamza, a mostly Shi’ite Muslim town 130 km (80 miles) south of Baghdad, occurred in a region that has been relatively quiet for months amid a general decline across Iraq in the violence unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Officials said they suspected it to be the work of militants linked to feuding local Shi’ite Muslim politicians, some of whom are unhappy about the results of January 31 provincial elections.
“This area used to see a lot of terrorist attacks but things were settling down,” said eyewitness Ali al-Sultani, whose brother was wounded in the blast. “I saw human flesh and pieces of dead sheep flying everywhere.”
Bloodshed in Iraq has fallen to five-year lows, but militants can still carry out devastating bomb attacks.