Black Monday for Iraq as spate of car bombings kill 34

A spate of bloody car bombings in Baghdad on Monday recalled the blackest days of violence in the capital as at least 34 people were killed and nearly 140 were wounded.

A total of six car bombs shattered the city’s fragile security situation just as British Business Minister Peter Mandelson arrived in Baghdad. Among the dead were at least two women and a baby.

During the morning rush hour 10 people were killed and 65 wounded when a booby-trapped car exploded in a market area of the impoverished Shi’ite district of Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad, an interior ministry official said.

In the central Allawi district, six people were killed and 25 others wounded by another car bomb. Most of the victims were workers waiting for jobs, a Defence Ministry official said.

Emergency teams moved in fast to clean up the pieces of twisted metal and the remains of a mangled white sedan.
Storefronts were closed, many of them damaged.

A car bomb targeting the convoy of a senior interior ministry official killed one civilian and a policeman and wounded six other policemen in the southeastern Shiite neighbourhood of New Baghdad.

The official, a brigadier general identified as Sadun, was unhurt.

And in Shi’ite Hussainiya, in the city’s far northeast, four people were killed and 20 were wounded when a vehicle exploded near a market.

Officials in the capital were unsure if the rush hour bombings between 7am and 9am were coordinated. Attacks at that time are common because the streets are so crowded.

The violence continued later in the day and shortly after noon twin car bombs tore through a popular medical clinic and a crowded bazaar, killing 12 and wounding 23 in Um Al-Maalif just west of the city centre, Defence and Interior Ministry officials said.

The attacks come after deadly clashes in Baghdad between Iraqi troops and former Sunni insurgents now turned anti-al-Qaeda militants over the arrest of their leader on criminal charges.

Despite improving security bombings remain all too common in the capital, and the latest attacks came as Mandelson led Britain’s first official trade delegation to Baghdad for more than 20 years.

The business delegation, on a one-day visit, was also to visit Basra in the south, a British embassy official said.

Also on Monday, seven Iraqi soldiers were wounded when a man exploded a suicide vest inside the house they were raiding in Balad, about 70km north of Baghdad.

In addition, an American soldier was killed on Monday in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, a United States military statement said.

Security in Iraq has improved dramatically since 2007, when Iraqi and US forces launched offensives against al-Qaeda militants with the help of local US-financed and US-trained militias.

But insurgents are still able to strike with deadly results. A total of 252 Iraqis were killed in violence in March, almost the same level as the previous month but up from January, when 191 Iraqis died in violence.

The US army’s second-highest ranking officer told reporters last month in Baghdad that recent “high-profile” attacks were not a signal that the overall security situation was worsening.

“In February 2008 the country was experiencing nearly 400 attacks a week nationwide,” Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin said.

“We have driven down the level of attacks by violent extremists and terrorists.”

In 2008 6 772 Iraqis were killed in violence. But in January 2007 alone, 1 992 civilians, 40 soldiers and 55 police were killed.—Sapa-AFP

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