/ 5 March 2009

Iraq car bomb kills 12, dozens wounded

A car bomb exploded in a livestock market in Iraq’s southern Babil province on Thursday, killing 12 people and wounding 40, police said.

The blast occurred in a region that has been relatively peaceful for months.

Violence has fallen across Iraq to lows not seen since the 2003 US-led invasion, but militants are still capable of carrying out devastating bomb attacks.

It was not immediately clear which militant group was responsible for the blast in Hamza, a mostly Shi’ite Muslim town 130km south of Baghdad. Babil province has a mixed Sunni Arab and Shi’ite population.

The incident seemed to bear the hallmarks of al-Qaeda, who favour high-profile attacks such as bombing crowded places to maximise civilian casualties.

US troops currently play a low-key role in southern Iraq after handing over the main responsibility for security to Iraqi forces.

As the US prepares to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by August 31 2010 and to leave the country completely by the end of 2011, US and Iraqi forces are racing against the clock to prepare Iraqi military and police to handle all threats. — Reuters