BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- A car bomb has exploded in a livestock market in Iraq's southern Babil province, killing 12 people and wounding 40, police said.
The blast occurred in a region that has been relatively peaceful for months.
Violence has fallen across Iraq to lows not seen since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, but militants are still capable of carrying out devastating bomb attacks.
It was not immediately clear which militant group was responsible for the blast in Hamza, a mostly Shi'ite Muslim town 130 kilometers south of Baghdad.
Babil Province has a mixed Sunni Arab and Shi'ite population.
The incident seemed to bear the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda, which favors high-profile attacks such as bombing crowded places to maximize civilian casualties.
U.S. troops play a low-key role in southern Iraq after handing over the main responsibility for security to Iraqi forces.
As the United States prepares to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010, and to leave the country completely by the end of 2011, U.S. and Iraqi forces are racing against the clock to prepare Iraqi military and police to handle all threats.