BAGHDAD — A suicide car bomber who was aiming for a government convoy killed at least 13 people and wounded two dozen more Thursday morning in Baghdad, police and government officials said.
The 8 a.m. explosion targeted a Labor Ministry convoy as it passed through central Baghdad's Bab al Sharji district. The labor minister, Mahmoud al Radhi, wasn't in the convoy, but at least three of his guards were among the dead, an Interior Ministry official said.
Four more guards were wounded, the official said. The rest of the casualties were civilians. Witnesses said the attacker was driving a white sport-utility vehicle.
Burnt cars, broken glass and dead birds littered the street after the explosion.
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Hussein Taha, 63, was selling tea from a roadside stand when the bomber struck. "There was a soldier drinking at my stand," he said. "Then the bomb went off and dust went everywhere and I couldn't see. When the dust cleared, I saw the soldier dead on the ground with blood on his head. . . . People all around me were killed, but somehow I am still standing here."
Diyaa Hussein, 25, owns one of several photography shops that line the street where the attack occurred. He said a car in the convoy moved to block the bomber just before the explosion.
"The car was trying to stop the attack," Hussein said. "Then there was the explosion, and that car flew 25 meters." Some people were killed when the car landed on them, he said.
Though violence has dropped dramatically across Iraq in recent months, bombings and assassinations are targeting government officials more and more. A member of parliament, Saleh al Aujaili, died in an explosion earlier this month. In July, the electricity minister, Karim Wahid, escaped a bomb attack in eastern Baghdad.
Radhi, a Shiite Muslim, has served as labor minister since mid-2006.