Mon, Jan 06, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Bombs rock Iraq ahead of Fallujah assault

AP and AFP, BAGHDAD and FALLUJAH, Iraq

Authorities said bombings in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, killed at least 15 people and wounded dozens yesterday.

Police say the deadliest of the attacks took place in Baghdad’s northern Shaab neighborhood, when two parked car bombs exploded simultaneously near a restaurant and a tea house.

Officials said that blast killed 10 people and wounded 26.

Authorities say another bombing killed three civilians and wounded six in a commercial area in the central Bab al-Muadham neighborhood.

Two other bombings killed two civilians and wounded 13.

Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

Meanwhile, a senior official said the Iraqi military was preparing a “major attack” to retake militant-held Fallujah, a new assault on the city west of the capital where US forces repeatedly battled insurgents.

Washington said it would help Baghdad in its battle against militants, but that there would be no return of US troops.

The takeover of Fallujah and parts of Anbar provincial capital Ramadi, farther west, is the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the bloody insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

“Iraqi forces are preparing for a major attack in Fallujah,” a senior Iraqi official said.

Special forces have already conducted operations inside the city, the official said.

The army has paused on the edge of the city to allow residents time to leave, awaiting orders to launch “the attack to crush the terrorists.”

Fallujah is in the hands of fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a senior security official said on Saturday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that the US would provide assistance to Iraqi forces in their battle against the militants, but that it was “their fight.”

Kerry said Washington was “very, very concerned” about the resurgence of ISIL, but said it was not contemplating any return of US ground troops after their withdrawal in December 2011.

“We are not obviously contemplating returning, we are not contemplating putting boots on the ground, this is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight... We are going to do everything that is possible to help them,” Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem.

Militants seized control of the village of Bubali near Ramadi after fighting yesterday, a witness said.

Iraqi ground forces commander Staff General Ali Ghaidan Majeed said that security forces killed 11 militants from countries, including Afghanistan and various Arab states, on the highway from Baghdad to Fallujah.

“We do not know what is happening in Fallujah,” Majeed said, but added that the city should “wait for what is coming” — a reference to the impending assault.

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