A car bomb exploded Thursday outside a funeral tent in a mainly Shiite area of Baghdad, killing at least 48 people -- the latest in a wave of attacks that has triggered fury over the government's inability to stop the bloodshed.
As ambulances raced to the scene and Iraqi helicopters buzzed overhead, young men enraged over the security lapse pelted Iraqi forces with sticks and stones, prompting skirmishes.
The violence in the past week and a half has mainly targeted the majority Shiite community and Iraqi security forces, posing a major challenge for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his fragile coalition government that was seated last month.
Some lawmakers and city officials said insurgents were likely trying to undermine the government ahead of an Arab League summit to be held in March in Baghdad. The Iraqi leadership had campaigned to host the two-day meeting to tout security improvements and mend frayed ties with its Arab neighbors.
"The terrorists are carrying out these bombings now because they are angry over the successful formation of a new government and they want to try to foil the Arab Summit," said Kamil Nassir al-Zaidi, the head of the Baghdad provincial council. "But the summit will be held as scheduled despite all these bombings."
Anger over Thursday's attack in the former Shiite militia stronghold of Shula stemmed from the fact the booby-trapped car had been parked just several yards from one end of the long, hangar-like tent.
Associated Press Television News footage showed broken plastic chairs overturned inside the tent. Broken tea cups and other debris covered the patterned rugs on the floor. A mourner held up a torn, blood-soaked dishdasha, traditional dress worn by Iraqi men.
At least 48 people were killed and 121 injured, according to police and hospital officials. Several nearby cars and houses were damaged.
Hours later, troops fired in the air to disperse a crowd gathered for a demonstration to demand better protection, and some protesters set tires on fire. Security forces imposed a curfew in Shula, prompting complaints from some residents that they were unable to visit wounded loved ones who had been taken to hospitals elsewhere in the capital.