Drive-by shootings killed seven Iraqis and wounded eight yesterday as they headed to work as day laborers or ironsmiths in provinces north of Baghdad.
The two attacks came one day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that Iraqi security forces would start assuming full responsibility for some provinces and cities next month, beginning a process leading to the eventual withdrawal of all coalition forces.
They said "responsibility for much of Iraq's territorial security should have been transferred to Iraqi control" by December. At that point, al-Maliki said, two of Iraq's most violent provinces, Baghdad and Anbar, may be the last where coalition forces maintain control.
But yesterday's violence north of Baghdad showed that goal may not be easy to achieve.
At 8am, gunmen riding in an Opel sedan car shot and killed four ironsmiths and wounded one as they were riding a pickup truck to work in Mosul, the capital of Ninevah Province, police Brigadier Abdul-Hamid Khalaf said.
At about 6:30am, a drive-by shooting at a minibus killed three Iraqi day laborers and wounded four as they drove to work at a farm near Baqouba, 60km northeast of Baghdad. Police said the casualties, all majority Shiites, appeared to be the latest victims of sectarian attacks by minority Sunni Arabs in Diyala Province.
On Jan. 31, a US embassy report had found security "critical" in Anbar Province, the Sunni-dominated region west of Baghdad that includes Ramadi and Fallujah. The report also said the security situation was considered serious in the provinces of Baghdad, Basra, Ninevah, Tamim, Salahuddin and Diyala -- all of them religiously mixed.
In other violence yesterday, according to police, a car bomb exploded in New Baghdad, an eastern part of the capital, killing five Iraqis, two police commandos and three civilians. The attack, which damaged nearby shops and cars, also wounded eight Iraqis: five commandos and three civilians.
Nazar Qadir, 39, a high school teacher on his way to work near Kirkuk, 290km north of Baghdad, was killed in a drive-by shooting.
In Baghdad, gunmen in a speeding car killed one of the many vendors who sell cigarettes from small wooden stands on the side of streets in the capital.
A roadside bomb damaged one Humvee in a US convoy in Dora, one of Baghdad's most violent areas, and an Iraqi woman and a child were wounding in gunfire that followed.
During his news conference with Blair on Monday, al-Maliki was asked whether the surge in sectarian violence in Iraq, which has prompted thousands of Iraqis to flee their homes, is a civil war.
"There are rebellious elements. There are gangs killing people. There are gangs that have used arms for political blackmailing or to achieve goals that have political dimensions," he said. "But those groups have failed to ignite a civil war."