BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Eighteen people died when a car bomb blew up outside a photo shop here as members of a wedding party waited last night for the newlyweds to get their pictures taken.
The blast ripped through a street in Abu Dsheir, a Shiite district that adjoins the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, as family and friends celebrated the wedding. Police said most of the 18 dead and 29 wounded were women and children who had been waiting for the bride and groom outside a picture studio near a restaurant.
"A massive blast destroyed the parked cars, severely damaged the restaurant and killed so many women and children," said Mazin Ali, a street vendor who watched the blast. The newlyweds were stuck inside the studio for half an hour before they were rescued.
"Instead of a wedding, it turned into a funeral," Ali said.
In southern Baghdad, a bomb killed two U.S. soldiers. The U.S. military identified the bomb as an explosive-formed projectile, or EFP, which can puncture the armored plating on Humvees and Bradley fighting vehicles.
American commanders and diplomats have accused Iran of providing these lethal weapons for use by Iraqi Shiite militants against U.S. soldiers. This week, U.S. commanders also charged that Iran's elite Al Quds force and surrogates in the armed Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah were training Iraqi fighters, culled from offshoots of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Al Mahdi militia, to battle the Americans.
The U.S. military previously had declined to identify when soldiers were killed or wounded by EFPs, but it has publicized such deaths recently as the war of words with Iran has heated up.
U.S. soldiers killed one militant and wounded six others before dawn around the Baghdad Shiite slum of Sadr City, the Army said in a statement. The military said the raid was targeting Shiite militants affiliated with Al Quds.
A U.S. Army attack helicopter fired at and destroyed a vehicle in Sadr City about 7 a.m., killing all four passengers who had been fleeing a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a U.S. military base in the New Baghdad neighborhood, spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl told the Los Angeles Times in an e-mail.
Iraqi security forces found 24 corpses around Baghdad yesterday, most in western Baghdad, which is the main battlefront between Sunni and Shiite extremists in the capital. Most of the bodies had bullet holes.
Separately, the U.S. military announced that a helicopter crash north of Baghdad in Nineveh province Wednesday that killed a U.S. soldier was an accident.
Ned Parker and Saif Hameed write for the Los Angeles Times.