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Twin Baghdad bombings kill 54

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Two car bombs exploded within seconds of each other Tuesday on a main square in central Baghdad, killing at least 54 people and wounding more than 106, police said.

The coordinated attack in Tayaran Square happened at 7 a.m. and involved a bomb in a parked car and a car carrying a suicide bomber, Lt. Bilal Ali said.

He said at least 54 Iraqis, including seven policemen, were killed and 146 people wounded. The bombs targeted a police patrol and a crowd of Iraqis gathering to apply for jobs as day laborers.

Iraqis gather on the square in the morning to wait for minibuses or private cars that stop and hire them for the day as construction workers, cleaners or painters. They can buy breakfast at stands set up on the square.

The suicide car bomber appeared to drive into one of those crowds and set off his explosives as the nearby parked car bomb also went off, Ali said.

Khalil Ibrahim, 41, a shop owner in the area, suffered shrapnel wounds to his head and back.

“In the first explosion, I saw people falling over, some of them blown apart. When the other bomb went off seconds later, it slammed me into a wall of my store and I fainted,” he said from a hospital.

The square is near several government ministries and a bridge that crosses the Tigris River to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where Iraq’s parliament and the U.S. and British embassies are located.

Not long after the attack, two other large explosions could be heard in the area – one at 8:25 a.m. and the other at 8:40 a.m. – but the cause of those blasts was not immediately known.

The U.S. military announced on Monday that three soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing north of the capital on Sunday, putting December on track to be one of the deadliest months of the war.

At least 66 more people were killed or found dead in the Baghdad area and northern Iraq on Monday. They included 46 men who were bound, blindfolded and shot to death in the capital.

Sunday’s roadside bombing that killed the three soldiers took place while they were on a late-night patrol north of Baghdad, the military said. The attack raised to 46 the number of U.S. troops who have died this month, an average of 4.6 a day. By comparison, an average of 3.4 were killed each day in October, the fourth-deadliest month of the Iraq war with 105 deaths.

At least 2,934 members of the U.S. military have died since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.