A string of blasts killed at least 15 people in central Iraq on Saturday in the second day of major attacks this week, as the US prepares to withdraw its troops from the country before the end of the year.
AP - A series of blasts struck an area west of Baghdad on Saturday where day laborers gather to find work, as well as a music and clothes market in the capital, killing at least 15 people, officials said.
The second day of major attacks this week in Iraq underscored the challenges still facing the country’s security forces as they approach a particularly fragile time. All American troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq in a matter of weeks, leaving Iraqi security forces with sole responsibility for securing the country.
The first two bombs exploded in the early morning in an area where day laborers wait for work in the mostly Sunni village of al-Zaidan, near the town of Abu Ghraib west of Baghdad. They killed seven people and wounded 11 others, the officials said.
Hours later, three bombs exploded near the kiosks of vendors selling CDs and military uniforms in central Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharqi market district, killing eight people and wounding 19.
“I went outside my shop and saw people running in all directions trying to leave the market area. I saw several bodies and wounded people on the ground,” said Mohammed Youssef, who owns a clothing shop in the area.
Iraqi military commanders ordered all the vendors selling products in the area to close their kiosks and move, in an attempt to clear out the area and make it harder for insurgents to hide bombs.
Health officials at Abu Ghraib’s general hospital and at three hospitals in Baghdad confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Violence has ebbed across Iraq, but deadly bombings and shootings still occur almost daily as U.S. troops prepare to leave by the end of the year. Iraqi security officials maintain that they are fully prepared for the withdrawal, which is required under a 2008 security pact between the U.S. and Iraq.
On Thursday, three bombs struck the southern city of Basra, killing 19 people.
Earlier this week, the top U.S. general in Iraq, Lloyd Austin, said that there would likely be some “turbulence” after American troops depart, as insurgents try to strengthen their positions. But he did not think there would be a wholesale disintegration of security.
One key area of concern has been the ability of Iraqi security forces to gather intelligence on insurgent groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq after the American forces leave. The U.S. military has been instrumental in helping Iraqi security forces gather intelligence on various militant targets which Iraqi security forces then use to find and arrest them.
Predominantly Shiite Bab al-Sharqi until recently had been surrounded by blast walls, which were removed as a result of the improved security situation, said Qassim al-Moussawi, the military spokesman for Baghdad.
The bombers “try to prove their presence and hinder our efforts to remove all the concrete walls, but we will continue removing them and keeping control,” he said.
Baghdad is crisscrossed with concrete blast walls that both reassure and frustrate residents. The walls helped reduce violence and protect areas such as markets or major buildings. But they also create huge traffic jams and hurt the economy.
The Iraqi security forces have been slowly removing the blast walls, but some people in the market area Saturday said they wanted them back.
“We have been expecting something bad in the market after the security forces removed the blast barriers a few days ago,” said Youssef, the clothing shop owner.
Date created : 2011-11-26