Four bombings, including three suicide attacks, within seven minutes killed at least 18 people and wounded 39 in northern Iraq early yesterday, while the US military said two Marines were killed in separate roadside explosions, sharply ending a relative lull in violence that fell over the country in recent days.
Police said another car bomb exploded in northern Baghdad, wounding 27 civilians and one policeman in another vicious attack yesterday, which followed two days during which 11 people died, far below a daily average of more than only 20 people being killed in violence since Iraq's new government was announced April 28.
Yesterday's early morning attacks appeared coordinated and aimed at checkpoints manned by members of Iraq's fledgling army, which has been a constant target of insurgents opposed to the country's new US-backed government.
The first explosion, caused by a roadside bomb, rocked Hawija, about 65km south of Kirkuk, at around 9:30am, before three suicide bombers waiting in queues of cars at army checkpoints to the west and north of Hawija struck in quick succession.
In the deadliest attack, 10 civilians were killed and one soldier wounded at a checkpoint in Dibis, about 3km west of Hawija, army Lieutenant Faleh Ahmed said.
Another three soldiers and two civilians were killed at a checkpoint in Bagara, 5km west of Hawija.
Two soldiers died in a suicide attack on the Aziziya checkpoint at the northern entrance to Hawija.
"I was standing some distance from the checkpoint we I heard a big explosion and I was thrown onto the ground," Lieutenant Sadiq Mohammed 26, whose right leg was wounded in the Dibis attack, said from his hospital bed.
"This is a terrorist act because real resistance should only target American troops, not Iraqis trying to protect their country," he said.
A Sunni cleric has been shot dead and his body was found dumped yesterday underneath a bridge in Basra, a relative of the man and a local mosque leader said. Salam al-Kardici, 50, was kidnapped on Sunday by armed men wearing police uniforms, relative Abdullah Abdul-Karim said.
Youssef al-Hamdani, imam of the al-Sakr mosque where al-Kardici was a prayer caller, confirmed the killing and called for a protest to denounce the crime.
Two US Marines died as a result of roadside bombings on Sunday and Monday from wounds sustained in roadside bomb attacks on their vehicles near Fallujah, the military said yesterday.
As of yesterday, at least 1,672 US military members have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
More than 860 people have died during the less than six-week period since Iraq's new Shiite-led government was announced.
But Iraqi and US officials maintain that a high-profile counterinsurgency offensive in Baghdad, dubbed Operation Lightning, has helped curb the number of attacks in the capital.Before the operation began on May 22, authorities controlled only eight of Baghdad's 23 entrances. Now all are under government control.
At least 887 arrests have been made during the operation, and 608 mobile and 194 permanent checkpoints have been established around Baghdad.