Thirty-six die in Baghdad car bombings - police

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BAGHDAD, March 12 (Reuters) At least 36 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in three apparently co-ordinated car bombs at two markets in Baghdad's Shi'ite district of Sadr City today, police said.

It was one of the worst days of violence in the capital in recent months. The bombs exploded as political leaders, struggling to form a government of national unity, held talks.

''People were torn to pieces,'' a witness said at the scene of one blast. ''Nobody knows the number of casualties. It's a lot, it's a lot,'' he said.

Two car bombs exploded in one market while a third blew up almost simultaneously at another. Police said they had found a fourth car bomb at a third market and defused it.

Sadr city is a stronghold of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands the Mehdi Army militia force. The district in eastern Baghdad has been relatively free of violence in the last couple of years.

Iraq has been gripped by a spasm of sectarian bloodletting following the bombing of an important Shi'ite mosque in Samarra on Feb. 22, sparking fears the country was sliding into civil war. But in recent days there had been a relative lull in the violence, prompting officials to declare the crisis was over.

A Reuters reporter said there were chaotic scenes at a hospital in Sadr City where many of the casualties were taken.

Some wounded were lying on the floor, others on stretchers. One woman wept as a man slapped his head in grief.

Ten people were killed in a series of mortar blasts and roadside bombings in Baghdad earlier today and the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-accused on charges of crimes against humanity resumed after a 10-day break.

REUTERS PR VC2239

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