The first suicide bomber blew up his white four-wheel-drive car at an army recruiting base in Baghdad, killing 35 people and wounding 138 in the deadliest attack since February when 47 people died in a bombing at another recruiting center, Reuters reported.
The blast outside Baghdad's Muthanna airport, which is used as a base for the Iraqi Defense Civil Corps and the U.S. military, scattered debris across a nearby four-lane highway and could be heard for miles, according to the Associated Press.
No American or Iraqi troops were hurt, U.S. Army Col. Mike Murray said. Most of the victims appeared to be poor Iraqis looking for jobs.
"This clearly again was an attack that has hurt the Iraqi people," said Murray, according to the AP.
"This was a cowardly attack. It is a demonstration again that these attacks are aimed at the stability of Iraq and the Iraqi people," Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said as he toured the scene.
Later Thursday, another car bomb exploded in a village near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, killing six Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members and wounding four others, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division said.
The ICDC is the main internal security force, created by U.S. administrators to battle insurgents.
The bombings occurred a day after a rocket hit a U.S. logistics base near Balad, killing three U.S. soldiers and wounding 25 others, including two civilian workers.
A top U.S. military official said Thursday's bombing in Baghdad appeared to fit a new pattern from al-Qaida-linked militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in which simpler, more frequent car bombings are aimed at shaking confidence in Iraqi security forces before the June 30 handover to Iraqi sovereignty, the AP reported.
Interim Iraqi Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib said there may be some connection with al-Zarqawi.
"We are quite sure and confident they are not Iraqis," he said of the bombers. "And we have very good indications that they came from abroad."