BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- A car bomb ripped through a crowded market in southern Iraq, killing at least 32 people and wounding 70, officials said.
Police locked down Al Bathaa, a Shi'ite Muslim town 30 kilometers west of Nassariyah that has seen little violence, while hospital officials appealed for assistance from neighboring cities to help them cope with the wounded.
Colonel Aziz al-Atabi, media director for the Iraqi Army's 10th division, said 32 people had been killed and 70 wounded.
Photographs posted online by local journalists showed pictures of the charred wreckage of the car the bomb was planted in, burnt body parts, and bloodstained rags mixed among vegetables strewn on the floor.
The sectarian bloodshed and insurgency unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion has fallen sharply across Iraq since its peak in 2006-07, and the Shi'ite Muslim south has tended to be one of the quietest areas.
But insurgents, including Sunni Islamist Al-Qaeda, who view Shi'ites as heretics, continue to carry out devastating car and suicide bomb attacks.
Analysts say violence is likely to rise ahead of parliamentary elections next January, which will pit not just Shi'ite parties against once dominant Sunnis and minority Kurds, but also against rival Shi'ite groups.
The withdrawal from Iraqi city centers by U.S. combat troops at the end of the month is another potential trigger point for an increase in attacks, Iraqi officials say.