Iraqi bombing deaths mount

Violence rises as U.S. leaves cities

The Associated PressJune 26, 2009 

  • Under a security accord agreed upon by the Iraqi and U.S. governments last year, all American combat troops must leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. Tuesday is the deadline for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities and withdraw to U.S. military bases.

— The bombing of a Baghdad bus station Thursday pushed the death toll from a weeklong series of blasts near Shiite targets to about 200.

The wave of attacks is undermining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's declaration of a "great victory" in the U.S. pullout from urban areas by Tuesday's deadline. He has declared June 30 a national holiday to be marked with celebrations.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, has pinned his re-election hopes largely on security gains that have driven violence to wartime lows, an issue that has become his stump speech in an undeclared campaign for a second term. Seven months before national elections, he tells audiences that he has quashed major violence, dismembered al-Qaida and stamped out Shiite militias.

Much of his recent rhetoric has focused on June 30, part of a security agreement that calls for American forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Al-Maliki: 'Don't worry'

On Saturday, al-Maliki declared that date a national victory and urged Iraqis to hold steady in the face of more violence, saying "don't worry if some security breach occurs here or there."

A few hours later, suspected Sunni insurgents struck in northern Iraq. A truck bomb packed with nearly a ton of explosives exploded in a Shiite town just outside the ethnically tense city of Kirkuk, killing 82 people. Officials blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for the attack.

On Monday, shootings and bombings killed more than 30 people in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods. After a smattering of deadly attacks the following day, a massive bomb in the Baghdad Shiite stronghold of Sadr City left 78 people dead Wednesday.

The Kirkuk bombing and the Sadr City blast were the two deadliest attacks this year.

Thursday's attacks

On Thursday, a bombing at a bus station in a Shiite neighborhood in southwest Baghdad killed at least seven people and wounded 31, police said. Another three bombs and a mortar strike killed two others around the capital. Nine American soldiers were wounded in two roadside bombings against a convoy in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said. And a roadside bombing killed a man in the northern city of Mosul.

That left the death toll since Saturday at about 200.

The No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq said the military expected violence ahead of the withdrawal deadline but that he was optimistic the brutal retaliatory sectarian attacks of the past would not resume.

"Nobody said there wasn't going to be violence and tough days," Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby told The Associated Press on Thursday. "What I've seen so far is calm, deliberate, professional reaction to the bombings. I think the government has said and done the right things."

He blamed the attacks on those trying to undermine the U.S.-Iraqi partnership and called the withdrawal from cities a "successful milestone for coalition forces and Iraqi security forces."

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