THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

8 killed in Shi’ite area of Baghdad

Passersby stared at the wreckage of a bus after a car bomb exploded in the Shaab neighborhood. Several bombs exploded nearly simultaneously in Baghdad yesterday. Passersby stared at the wreckage of a bus after a car bomb exploded in the Shaab neighborhood. Several bombs exploded nearly simultaneously in Baghdad yesterday. (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)
By Kim Gamel
Associated Press / August 12, 2009

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BAGHDAD - Several bombs exploded nearly simultaneously yesterday in a mainly Shi’ite area in Baghdad, killing at least eight people and raising fears of a sustained insurgent campaign aimed at provoking new sectarian tensions.

The five-day death toll rose to 123 in the worst spasm of bombings the country has suffered since US forces left the cities at the end of June, turning over urban security to Iraqi troops.

An explosives-laden car parked near a market entrance and two other nearby bombs detonated within minutes of each other at about 8:40 p.m. in the Amin al-Thaniyah neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 22, according to police and hospital officials.

The market was closed, but kebab vendors and a pharmacy were busy with customers when the explosion occurred.

Another bomb exploded about 20 minutes later some 900 yards from the initial blasts, wounding five people, a police officer said.

The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

Attacks in the northern city of Mosul, which the US military has called the last stronghold of Al Qaeda, also killed at least 34 people Monday and 44 on Friday. It was the first time since the United States turned urban security over to the Iraqis on June 30 that insurgents have managed to stage two massive attacks in short order.

Yesterday’s explosions had a lower death toll but heightened concerns about security measures in the capital because they came after 29 people were killed in a spate of bombings, also on Friday and Monday, in Baghdad.

Persistent violence has focused criticism on Iraqi security forces who are now solely responsible for protecting the people in the cities since US forces pulled back to bases on the outskirts. A security pact calls for all American troops to withdraw from the country by the end of 2011.

Saef Karar, 25, was lying on the roof of his house to escape the summer heat when the area was filled with smoke from the blast.

“I feel sorrow and bitterness that such a brutal calamity occurred in our neighborhood, spoiling the calm it has enjoyed for the past five months,’’ he said.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, but car bombings and suicide attacks bear the hallmark of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The US military has insisted that overall levels of violence remain low compared with past years but warned insurgents will step up efforts to reignite sectarian violence by provoking retaliatory attacks.

Ethnic tensions between Arabs and Kurds also are high in northern Iraq.