Shiite areas targeted by deadly bombings

At least eight people were killed and nearly 50 wounded in several bombings in a largely Shiite neighbourhood in Baghdad on Tuesday, one day after the deadliest day in Iraq since the US military pulled out of urban areas in June.


AFP - At least eight people were killed and nearly 50 wounded in bomb attacks in Iraq on Tuesday as a top US general said Al-Qaeda remained a potent force still capable of bloody attacks in the country.

In the worst attack, eight people were killed and 30 injured in consecutive car bombings in the eastern Baghdad neighbourhood of Al-Amin, an interior ministry official told AFP.

The first bomb tore into a cafe in the evening in the mixed Shiite-Christian neighbourhood while local residents smoked water pipes, and was followed five minutes later by a blast outside an apartment complex, the official said.

Nine people were wounded when a car bomb exploded in a market in the Shaab suburb of northeast Baghdad and four soldiers were wounded by a roadside bomb in the Shiite-majority slum of Sadr City.

In Baquba, north of the capital, a six-year-old boy was hurt when the car he was travelling in was hit by a roadside bomb, a local security official said.

Two soldiers were also wounded by a roadside bomb in Abara outside Baquba, north of Baghdad. Three traffic police were wounded by a roadside bomb planted outside the one-time insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, to the capital's west.

The attacks came a day after 51 people were killed in bombings near the northern city of Mosul and in the capital -- the deadliest day since US troops pulled out of urban centres across Iraq at the end of June.

Those bombings, largely targeting Shiites and members of the tiny Shabak sect, were the latest in a series of attacks apparently aimed at igniting a resumption of brutal Sunni-Shiite fighting that killed thousands in 2006 and 2007.

General Robert Caslen, who oversees US forces in northern Iraq, said the Monday attacks showed Al-Qaeda remained active in the north of the country and capable of spectacular attacks.

"I think Al-Qaeda of Iraq, which also has teamed up with Islamic State of Iraq, or ISI as we call it, still remains centered with its leadership and its financial capability in northern Iraq, primarily in Mosul," Caslen said.

After six months of an aggressive campaign against the terror network in the region, attacks "dropped off significantly" shortly before the June 30 withdrawal of US forces from cities and towns, Caslen said.

However, "they remain, I would say, a resilient force that has the capability to regenerate their combat power as necessary," he said.

The average number of attacks per week has dropped since June 30, from about 40 to 29, he said. But those that did occur were deadlier, with Al-Qaeda targeting Iraqi security forces.

Despite an overall drop in violence in recent months, attacks on security forces and civilians remain common in Baghdad, Mosul and in the ethnically divided northern oil hub of Kirkuk.

The number of violent deaths fell by a third last month to 275 from 437 in June, following the pullout of US forces from urban areas.

The figure for May was 155, the lowest of any month since the US-led 2003 invasion.

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