BAGHDAD - Two bombs went off within minutes of each other in a crowded shopping district in the capital yesterday, killing at least 53 people and wounding 130 - a reminder that deadly attacks are a daily threat even though violence is down.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility. But back-to-back bombings - designed to maximize carnage - became the hallmark of attacks on civilians by Al Qaeda in Iraq during the worst of the violence in Baghdad in 2006.
Like in previous such attacks, the tactic seeks to draw in the people with the first blast, especially security and medical workers, before a second bomb detonates.
Iraqis were enjoying a pleasant spring evening when a roadside bomb hidden under a vendor stall detonated in the primarily Shi'ite, middle-class Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah.
Five minutes later, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt detonated, Mohammed al-Rubaie, the head of the Karradah municipality, told the state-run Al-Iraqiya TV.
He said more than 50 civilians were killed and more than 100 injured. Many of the victims were teenagers or young adults, and four were women, police and officials at three hospitals said.
Interior Ministry officials and hospital officials said 53 people were killed and 130 were wounded.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
Hassan Abdullah, who owns a clothing shop in the area, said he was walking to the site of the first blast to see what happened when the second bomb went off.
"I saw a leg and a hand falling near me as I was walking. The whole place was a mess. Wounded people were crying for help, and people started to run away," said Abdullah, 25. "The aim of such attacks is the random killing of as many people as possible in order to terrorize Iraqi people."
A police officer said the blasts also damaged seven shops and four parked cars. Like the rest of those who provided information, he spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release information.
Violence has dropped substantially in Baghdad over the last six months with the boost in US troops, a cease-fire by a powerful Shi'ite militia, and many Sunni fighters turning against Al Qaeda in Iraq.
But multiple killings are still a daily occurrence.
Southeast of Baghdad, the US military said it discovered a home in a farming area that served as an Al Qaeda in Iraq training facility and prison.
The brick house was on a dirt road in a remote area of Zambraniyah, about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad.
From the outside, nothing appeared unusual.
But inside the house, soldiers found handcuffs attached to the floor and another connected to a barred window, hooks used to hang people attached to a wall, and interrogation books written in Arabic, the military said.
"It looked like there were remnants where people suffered," said Specialist Daniel Murray, who was on the mission Wednesday.
Troops also found a treadmill and stair-climbing machine in another room, said Murray, of Jacksonville, Ill.
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Solomon, the squadron commander from Boston, said it appeared that the home was used as a base but it was hard to tell when it was last occupied.
"We didn't miss them by hours . . . but certainly over the past weeks and months there was activity at the house," he said.
"They had invested in it, in terms of the shackles on the walls, the treadmills. It was a place they used for a good period of time," added Solomon.
Solomon said the military worked with members of the Sons of Iraq to locate the house.
Sons of Iraq is a phrase often used by the military to describe US-funded Sunni tribesman who are now fighting Al Qaeda.
The military, meanwhile, announced a flurry of raids over the last several days in which 13 suspected insurgents were killed and dozens captured.