Original source:
A car bomb exploded in a crowded cattle market in the Iraqi town of al-Medhatiaya on Thursday, killing at least 12 civilians and injuring 56 others.

The blast was the worst single attack in the country since a suicide bomber killed 35 Shi’ite pilgrims heading to the holy city of Karbala south of Baghdad last month.

While violence has declined in Iraq during the past 18 months, there have been a series of high-profile attacks on civilians and US and Iraqi soldiers in recent weeks.

Thursday’s bombing in the Babil province followed a series of attacks on Iraqi police, soldiers and a pro-US militia leader on Wednesday that left at least 11 people dead and 33 wounded throughout the country.

A total of 258 Iraqis were killed in violence in February, a sharp rise from the previous month which saw the lowest casualty figures since the March 2003 US-led invasion, according to official government statistics.

Iraqi MPs approved a Status of Forces Agreement on November 27 that provides for the withdrawal of US occupation forces by the end of 2011.

The agreement specifies that US troops must pull back from Iraq’s towns and cities by mid-2009 and curbs US powers to detain Iraqi citizens and conduct military operations.

Last month, US President Barack Obama announced plans to pull 90,000 soldiers out of Iraq by August 2010.

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