BAGHDAD, Iraq – A car bomb exploded Saturday evening near a market on the outskirts of Baghdad, killing at least 30 people, a gruesome end to one of the most violent weeks since the start of the war.

Iraqi officials reported the car bomb exploded near a produce market in Nahrawan, a poor Shiite enclave just of east of Baghdad, around sundown. Many of the dead and dozens of the wounded were transported to al-Kindi Hospital in central Baghdad, where police officials described a macabre scene of screaming and limbless victims flooding the emergency room.

In all, at least 52 people were killed or found dead throughout Iraq on Saturday, The Associated Press reported.

The market bombing comes on the heels of a suicide car bombing Wednesday at a gathering place for day laborers in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad that left 112 dead, three suicide car bombings in southern Baghdad on Thursday that left at least 23 police dead, and a suicide bombing in the northern city of Tuz Khormato outside a Shiite Mosque after Friday prayers that killed more than 20.

Nearly 250 people have been killed in insurgent attacks throughout the country over the past four days, with the nation’s Shiite population suffering the brunt of the violence.

After 14 bombings over a matter of hours in Baghdad on Wednesday, al-Qaida in Iraq said the fresh round of violence was in response to the recent Iraqi and U.S. operations in the northern city of Tal Afar. The group’s mastermind, Musab al-Zarqawi, purportedly threatened in a recorded message that he was launching a “complete war” against the nation’s Shiite population.

Al-Zarqawi views the Shiites as apostates and Western collaborators who are denigrating Islam. He is bent on igniting a sectarian war, Iraqi and U.S. officials say.

A national vote on a draft constitution is scheduled for Oct. 15. U.S. military officials say they expect a spike in insurgent violence in the lead-up to the vote. What remains to be seen is what effect the violence will have on the vote.

Earlier Saturday, a Sudanese and an Egyptian truck driver were killed in western Baghdad when their convoy was attacked, according to police. News services reported the drivers were part of a convoy carrying food to a U.S. military base.

The U.S. military also reported Saturday the capture of what were identified as two key aides to al-Zarqawi’s network in the northern city of Mosul. The suspects were captured together during a meeting, the military statement said.

One of the suspects, Taha Ibrahim Yaser Becher, is reported to be the top-ranking operative for al-Zarqawi in Mosul.

(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-09-17-05 1721EDT

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