Iraq blast claims 18 lives

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At least 18 people have been killed after a large explosion was reported south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Local police sources say that the blast was caused by a car bomb being detonated in a busy street in Mahmudiya, which lies 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Earlier conflicting reports said a rocket had struck the side of the town's general hospital.

And Mahmudiya's mayor told the Reuters news agency a truck bomb was the cause of the explosion.

More than 30 people are thought to have been injured in the attack, with the death toll likely to rise in the coming hours.

Mahmudiya's residents are an even mix of Sunni and Shia Muslims, and the town has repeatedly been used as a staging ground for sectarian attacks.

Elsewhere in Iraq, four people were killed in the south-west Baghdad suburb of Ilam following a car bomb, while the US army has confirmed that four of its soldiers died yesterday in the north-eastern Diyala province after a roadside bomb was detonated near their vehicle.

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