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A Shiite militant seeking to reignite sectarian violence was responsible for Tuesday’s bombing in Baghdad, which was the worst attack there in several months, American officials said Wednesday.

U.S. military officials blamed the attack — which killed nearly 70 people, according to Iraqi officials — on a man named Haydar Mehdi Khadum Al Fawadi, the alleged leader of a "Special Groups" cell. The military uses the term to describe what it says are splinter factions of Shiite militias armed and trained by Iran.

"We believe he ordered the attack to incite Shiite violence against Sunnis," Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for Multi-National Division-Baghdad, said in an e-mail. "His intent was to disrupt Sunni resettlement in Hurriya in order to maintain extortion of real estate income to support his nefarious activities."

Stover called Haydar a "murderous thug who is attempting to incite violence for his own individual profit and gain." The attack was in Khadamiyah, a neighborhood in northern Baghdad.

According to The Associated Press, the man is also known as Haydar al-Majidi, and has been sought by U.S. and Iraqi forces for several months. According to AP, there is a $50,000 bounty for information leading to his arrest.

Military officials believe the bomb was comprised of 200 to 300 pounds of bulk explosive packed into a vehicle. While car bomb attacks are usually the signature of al-Qaida in Iraq or other Sunni extremists, officials said "intelligence corroborated through multiple sources" pointed to Haydar’s network.

Stover also said the blast struck near several multifloor buildings, not a market as originally reported. The U.S. put the death toll at 27 civilians killed, with 40 others wounded. Discrepancies between Iraqi and American body counts after large attacks are common. Stover said coalition troops were at a meeting some 150 meters from the blast site, but could not confirm whether they were the intended target of the attack.

The bombing was the deadliest attack in Baghdad since early March, when a pair of bombings killed 68 people in the Karradah district. U.S. and Iraqi officials have said the security gains have been helped in part by a cease-fire between Shiite militias and coalition forces in Sadr City.

The Iraqi Cabinet said Tuesday’s attack "will increase our resolve to save the capital and the provinces from terrorists, killers and outlaws."

"This is a senseless and tragic event," Stover said. "This is simply an evil act."


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