BAGHDAD, July 1: At least 66 people were killed when a car bomb hit a Baghdad Shia neighbourhood on Saturday, ripping through a massive security crackdown in the Iraqi capital in the second deadliest attack this year.

A Sunni woman MP was also kidnapped in north Baghdad along with eight of her bodyguards, a day after Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden vowed the war would go on despite a peace plan launched by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City, a stronghold of militiamen loyal to Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr, has been a repeated target for Sunni Arab insurgents amid mounting sectarian violence.

The massive bomb went off as a police patrol passed through the district’s Al-Ula market, which was packed with morning shoppers, an interior ministry official said.

Iraq’s Deputy Health Minister Sabah al-Hussein said at least 66 people were killed and 98 wounded in the bombing but added that more casualties were still arriving at hospitals.

It was the deadliest attack since a suicide bomber killed 67 people and wounded 105 at a police recruitment centre in the insurgent bastion of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on Jan 5.

“The explosion happened in a very crowded market frequented by many people even from outside the area,” the minister told state television.

“At the beginning of this market, the criminal blew up his dynamite-packed truck after trying to go over the pavement.”

The force of the blast torched nearby market stalls and around 20 vehicles.

Fearful residents were seen desperately searching through the mangled wreckage for missing loved ones.

A US military vehicle which attempted to approach the blast scene withdrew in the face of a hail of stones from angry residents.

Maj-Gen Jihad Taher al-Luaibi, head of the interior ministry’s anti-explosives unit said: “The dead were of all sexes and ages — innocent people. Their bones and flesh were crushed together.—AFP

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