Friday, June 26, 2009

Iraq War Continues As Bomb Hits Baghdad Market, 15 Reported Killed, 50 Wounded

Friday, June 26, 2009
13:57 Mecca time, 10:57 GMT

Deaths as bomb hits Baghdad market

Mourners in Baghdad's Sadr City reflect the mood in Iraq today as surging violence takes its toll

At least 15 people have been killed and nearly 50 wounded after a bomb exploded in a motorbike market in central Baghdad, just four days before US troops are due to pullout of Iraqi cities and towns.

The bomb was planted in a motorcycle in the Bab al Sheikh area of the Iraqi capital on Friday, police said.

The explosion occurred in the morning when the market was packed with young people buying or selling motorcycles in central Baghdad, according to police and hospital officials.

Ghaith Abdul-Allah, 35, who was unloading motorcycles he planned to sell from his lorry when the blast occurred, said: "I saw a ball of fire and some motorbikes were lifted about 10 metres into the air.

"When the smoke from the explosion vanished, I saw a large number of young men lying on the ground soaked in blood.

Iraqis 'anxious'

"There were others who were screaming and crying for a lost brother or a friend," he added.

The blast also came two days after more than 70 people died in an attack at a market in Baghdad's Sadr City area.

Reporting from Irbil, Al Jazeera correspondent Hoda Abdel-Hamid said: "There has been an increase in the number of attacks lately, specifically these high profile attacks that we haven't seen in a long long time.

"Iraqi and US militaries have been warning that as we reach the 30th deadline - when all American troops should be out of urban areas - there will be more attacks and that is what we are seeing.

"Quite troubling is that the attacks in Sadr City, which killed more than 70 people, happened in an area where Americans had just evacuated and handed over security to the Iraqi security forces.

"So that raises a lot of questions and also the level of anxiety for the Iraqi people over what would happen once the Americans go back to their bases."

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has insisted the country's security forces were capable of protecting citizens after US forces pull out.

Drive-by shooting

"We assure you of Iraqi forces' readiness for the mission, despite some security violations, and we assure you that we are now more stable and steady," he said.

On Thursday, two people were killed and 31 more wounded when two bombs went off within hours of each other at a bus station in the southeast of Baghdad.

In the east of the Iraqi capital, nine US soldiers were wounded when two roadside bombs hit their patrol, the US army said.

Four Iraqi policemen were killed in two separate incidents near the former anti-government stronghold of Falluja in western Iraq, police officials said.

Three of the officers died when a homemade bomb targetting a police patrol went off, while the fourth died in a drive-by shooting at a security checkpoint.

Violence 'persistently high'

An Iraqi soldier was also killed and 13 people wounded, including four other troops, by a car bomb near the city of Mosul, a police official said.

The wave of violence comes just days after the US military formally handed control of Baghdad's Sadr City area, the scene of Wednesday's bombing, to local forces.

US forces are also due to withdraw from all cities and major towns of Iraq by the end of June, including Mosul and Kirkuk, where violence levels remain persistently high.

A "small number" of US troops would be left in some Iraqi cities after the June 30 deadline at so-called Joint Security Stations to train and advise local security forces, a military spokesman said.

The US military will also continue to provide intelligence and air support.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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