Two suicide car bombers rammed their vehicles into a Baghdad police station yesterday, killing 12 people in one of the worst attacks aimed at Iraq's security forces since a security crackdown was launched in the city.
The bombings in the mostly Shiite al-Bayaa neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad wounded 95, police said.
Most of the dead were civilians, police said, reversing earlier statements that mainly police had been killed.
The blasts damaged the police station and also largely destroyed a garage next door, collapsing rubble onto a dozen cars.
"Look at the situation Iraqis are living in. You see blasts whenever you try to go out to earn a living," said one witness.
In a separate attack, a car bomb in a Shiite enclave in the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Saidiya in southern Baghdad killed up to five civilians and wounded 25 people, police said.
A source at Yarmouk hospital said the hospital had received seven bodies after the blast. A policeman who arrived in the area shortly after the attack was killed when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, police said.
Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen dragged 23 members of northern Iraq's Yazidi religious minority from a bus yesterday and shot them dead by the roadside, police Brigadier General Mohammed El-Waqa'a said.
"Workers were travelling back from a textile plant in Mosul to their home in Bashika, east of the city," he said. "Several gunmen stopped the buses, chose the Yazidis among the passengers and killed them in front of everybody."
Police said a group of cars blocked the road in the Al-Nur neighborhood of east Mosul, while others set up a cordon to protect the gang that stormed the bus convoy. The captives were executed on a field by the road. Three wounded Yazidis survived, officers said.
The Yazidis, who numbers some 500,000, mainly in northern Iraq, speak a dialect of Kurdish but follow a pre-Islamic religion and have their own cultural traditions.
In other developments, the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, said in remarks published yesterday that a recent troop build-up had yielded modest progress but a rise in suicide bombings made the ultimate success of the crackdown uncertain.
Petraeus and other senior US officers in Iraq told the Washington Post the increase in US and Iraqi troops had improved security in Baghdad and western Anbar Province but that attacks had risen sharply in other regions.
"We have certainly pulled neighborhoods back from the brink," Petraeus was quoted as saying.
But the commanders said the increase in suicide bomb attacks was troubling because of the danger of reigniting sectarian revenge killings and undermining the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"I don't think you're ever going to get rid of all the car bombs," Petraeus said. "Iraq is going to have to learn -- as did, say, Northern Ireland -- to live with some degree of sensational attacks."
The US military said yesterday it was putting up concrete walls to protect five neighborhoods in Baghdad. Some residents said the move would isolate them and sharpen sectarian tensions.
"We are not sealing off neighborhoods, we are controlling access to them. It's a tactic, it's not a change in strategy to divide Baghdad along sectarian lines," military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Bleichwehl said.
The announcement that more "gated communities" are being built came after the US military said last week it was putting a 5km cement wall around Adhamiya, a mainly Sunni Arab area that is surrounded on three sides by Shiite communities.
Um Othman, 45, a teacher, said residents in Adhamiya regarded the concrete barriers as an "isolating wall."
"It will be like Palestine. The people of Adhamiya and neighboring districts have mutual historical relations, like religious festivals and marriage," she said.
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