Reports from Iraq indicate that there is some confusion about the cause of the blast. A coalition soldier at the scene said they were considering two possible explanations. ‘One, that the truck was loaded with explosives and it went up,’ he said. ‘Two, that a smaller vehicle that crashed into [the tanker] accidentally blew up the petrol inside.’ Iraq’s deputy interior minister, Ahmed Kadhim Ibrahim, said that the tanker had been loaded with explosives and had been speeding towards a local police station when it accidentally collided with a minibus. Local witnesses said that the collision appeared to be an ordinary, but tragic road crash.

The reports of the tanker explosion came hours after US military officials in Iraq said that they had detained 73 suspected insurgents in the town of Samarra. Those arrested are believed to be members of an operational terrorist cell, and include the group’s leader, a military spokesman said.