More than a dozen bomb attacks in and around Baghdad yesterday left at least 18 people dead, including 12 people killed in a suicide attack, and 80 wounded.
The series of attacks comes just days after blasts against police in a tense northern city killed 29 people, with just months to go before all US forces must withdraw from Iraq amid questions over whether local security forces are up to the task of maintaining stability in the war-wracked country.
A total of 12 roadside bombs, three vehicles packed with explosives and one suicide attacker struck in the spate of morning blasts yesterday, although it was not immediately clear to what extent, if any, the violence was coordinated.
The deadliest attack saw 12 people killed and 23 wounded in a suicide bombing in the town of Taji, 25km north of the capital, an Iraqi interior ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
A defense ministry official put the toll at 14 dead and 28 wounded in Taji.
A car bomb had initially gone off at around 9am in the town and when residents and ambulance crews arrived at the scene, the suicide bomber blew himself up, causing the casualties, the interior ministry official said.
Among the victims were eight police killed, while four policemen and three soldiers were wounded.
The interior ministry official said the initial car bomb had exploded as a US army convoy was passing through Taji, but a US military spokesman said he had received “no indication” of any such attack.
In Baghdad, four roadside bombs and a car bomb near a police station in the southern neighborhood of al-Amil killed two people and wounded 15, including three policemen, while a roadside bomb in Saidiyah, also in the south, wounded three people.
Two separate roadside bombs, one near a hospital and another near a popular market, in the predominantly Shiite north Baghdad district of Sadr City left two people dead and 14 wounded, the interior ministry official said.
Police at the scene, however, said that one of the blasts had been a car bomb.
Also in north Baghdad, a car bomb targeting a police brigadier general’s convoy killed a civilian and wounded five people, including two of the senior commander’s bodyguards.
Two roadside bombs in central al-Wathiq square killed one person and wounded 12, six of them policemen, while a bomb blast in eastern Beirut Square wounded six.
Two people were wounded by two roadside bombs that were ostensibly targeting a civilian spokesman for Baghdad’s security command center in east Baghdad.
Several top US officials have passed through Baghdad in recent weeks, including US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, to push Baghdad to decide soon whether it wants an extended US military presence or not.
Meanwhile, the last of Britain’s military forces have withdrawn from Iraq after more than eight years of fighting militants and training security forces.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the British Royal Navy yesterday handed over its mission of patrolling waters off the southern port city of Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf.
Al-Dabbagh said 80 British sailors had been helping to train the Iraqi Navy. He said that role now would be filled by US sailors through the end of the year.
British forces were part of the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq that ousted former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Combat troops withdrew from Iraq in July 2009.