Bombings, Drive-Bys Kill 75 in Iraq

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

(AP)--

Bombings and drive-by shootings killed at least 75 Iraqis on Monday and wounded dozens more in what appeared in part to be a targeted assault on police and army forces around Baghdad.

The single deadliest attack, Iraqi police say, occurred when two car bombs ripped through the city of Hillah south of Baghdad, killing at least 25 people.

Two bombs also struck civilians in the small town of Suwayrah - one in a parked car and the other planted along a road - killing eight passers-by and wounding 71, according to an Iraqi police official and a hospital worker in the nearby city of Kut.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Suwayrah is located about 25 miles south of Baghdad.

In the capital, Iraqi military and police fanned out across the city after gunmen in speeding cars attacked security checkpoints and military patrols in the early morning hours, officials said. At least 10 people were killed in those attacks.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the attacks seemed to be a deliberate attempt by insurgents to show they were still able to hit in the heart of the capital despite recent successes by U.S. and Iraqi security forces in dismantling terror networks operating in Iraq.

Additional checkpoints were set up around Baghdad by noon Monday. Uniformed police escorting a car with a flag-draped casket - believed to be one of the victims - fired their guns into the air and blared their sirens as they raced down a busy street in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah.

The attacks also come at a precarious time as Iraq awaits a new government to be formed more than two months after landmark parliamentary elections and worries that insurgents will try to exploit the ongoing political uncertainty to stoke new violence.

At least 17 people were also injured in the Baghdad attacks.

The first attack came around 3 a.m. in western Baghdad when gunmen in a speeding car opened fire on an army patrol, killing one soldier and injuring another, Iraqi officials said.

That incident was followed by at least six other attacks. Although most of them were drive-by shootings, a roadside bomb in western Baghdad targeting a police patrol killed three civilians.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

It was not immediately known who was behind the attacks or how many people were involved in the incidents which took place over roughly 2 1/2 hours in five different neighborhoods across the capital.

Iraqi police also were targeted elsewhere. Four bombs planted outside the homes of police officials in Fallujah, a former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, killed at least three people and wounded at least 13 others, including women and children, according to a city police official.

An Interior Ministry official, however, put the death toll at four with 12 injured. Such differences are common in the immediate hours following attacks.

Insurgents have often targeted Iraqi police and army as a way to undermine the country's fragile security and intimidate the security forces.

Violence in the city and the rest of the country has fallen dramatically since the height of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007. But with two months gone after Iraq's March 7 election and no government in sight, there are concerns that the sectarian violence that once battered the city daily will reappear.

The election has pitted incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against fellow Shiite, but secular challenger Ayad Allawi. Allawi's Iraqiya coalition, heavily backed by the country's Sunni Arab minority, won 91 seats compared to al-Maliki's 89 seats, but the prime minister has challenged the results at every turn.

On Monday, Allawi told reporters he has been trying for days to meet with al-Maliki and begin hammering out a compromise. But he vowed again to fight attempts to overturn the election results that gave his political party the lead. Efforts to disqualify some of its winning candidates who are accused of links to the outlawed Baath Party "must be halted," he said.

"We refuse humiliation and we won't stand still if the harm against Iraqiya continues," Allawi said.

The election results have yet to be certified by the country's highest court - which must happen before any new government can be formed - and a recount demanded by al-Maliki in Baghdad is ongoing.

If the results are overturned or Allawi is not perceived as the winner deserving a legitimate shot at forming a government, that could in turn outrage the Sunnis who supported him. Sunni anger at Shiite domination of successive governments was a key reason behind the insurgency.

Meanwhile in the outskirts of the northern city of Mosul, at least two people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb near a checkpoint, according to Iraqi army colonel Rebwar Younis.

The attack came near a joint security checkpoint run by Iraqi security forces and Kurdish security forces known as the peshmerga, he said. Both of the dead were peshmerga.

The joint checkpoints were set up earlier this year under the supervision of American troops as a way to get Iraqi and Kurdish forces working together in areas claimed by both the Kurds and Iraq's federal government.

In Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, city Mayor Mohammed Jassim was injured when bombs in parked cars targeted his convoy. In all, five people were killed and 18 injured in the attack, said a city police official.

And in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, one person was killed and two others injured when a roadside bomb exploded near a closed grocery store, said Maj. Muthana Khalid, a police spokesman.


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