The explosion was aimed at worshipers exiting the mosque after their afternoon prayers, the mosque’s imam, Sheik Saleh al-Haidari, told the Associated Press.
The truck was parked in an adjacent parking lot, causing the mosque’s outer wall to crumble. The blast also made a nearby house collapse, killing six, and left 20 cars burned and 25 shops damaged.
The truck was loaded with fans and air conditioners, concealing its explosives in a shopping area known for selling electrical appliances.
The attack came less than a week after another explosion brought down two towers of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra. Following that strike, a curfew was put in place to prevent retaliatory violence from the Shiite population, but was lifted Sunday.
Local residents appeared shocked and angered by the bombing — one of the deadliest attacks against civilians in recent months.
“Five days of curfew stopped us from coming to work, and today a car bomb,” a nearby shop owner told the New York Times. “How am I going to cope with that and run my family?”
As the bomb ripped through central Baghdad, approximately 10,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers were in the midst of a new offensive against al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents northeast of the capital. The incursion, begun Monday night, was launched against several al-Qaida strongholds in Baqouba, the capital of the Diyala province, military officials told the AP.
U.S. forces have spent the past four months cracking down on insurgent operations in and around Baghdad and the Anbar province, but al-Qaida has continued to move its personnel away from U.S. targets.