Car bombs across Iraq kill at least 36

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Three car bombs tore through Baghdad and the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah on Sunday, killing at least 36 people and breaking what had been a period of relative calm since the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The violence was the worst to strike Iraq since the number of American troops in the country dropped below 50,000 and the United States declared a formal end to combat operations. It also underlines the challenges Iraqi security forces face trying to stabilize Baghdad as the United States trims its military presence and Iraq’s police and military assume responsibility for security.

The deadliest attack Sunday took place in north Baghdad’s Kazimiyah neighborhood when a car bomb detonated near a branch office of the National Security Ministry in Adan Square, killing at least 21 people and wounding more than 70, police and hospital officials said.

“It was a big explosion, and dust and smoke filled my house,” said Abu Shahad, who lives about 200 yards from the blast site. “I went out and saw a big black cloud hanging over the area where the bomb exploded, and I rushed there because I have relatives living there.”

He said his cousin and her child were killed and another cousin was wounded in the blast.

At least 10 people were killed in another car bombing in western Baghdad’s affluent Mansour neighborhood, said Army Brig. Gen. Ali Fadhal, who is responsible for the western half of the city. Another 10 people were wounded in the attack.

Gen. Fadhal said security officials were investigating whether the blast was the work of a suicide attacker in a car targeting a crowded commercial area near an AsiaCell store, one of Iraq’s biggest mobile phone providers.

The blast sheered off large sections of the concrete walls from the surrounding buildings, and chunks of rubble were strewn around the street. Dozens of Iraqi army and police officers cordoned off the area, keeping journalists at bay.

An eyewitness working in an office near the Mansour blast site said he heard a huge explosion that shattered windows in his office and brought a section of the ceiling down on one customer.

“Dust and black smoke covered the area, and I thought that the car bomb exploded near our office,” said the man, who identified himself as Abu Haidar. He said he saw a lot of wounded people on the street and helped evacuate a child who had shrapnel wounds in his back.

He also accused the government of failing to quell violence in the country.

“I blame this tragedy only on the government officials who are competing for positions and letting us be victims of these bombings,” Abu Haidar said.

Iraq has gone more than six months now without a new government since inconclusive parliamentary elections in March.

While politicians continue to wrangle over who should head the next government, many Iraqis complain that the political deadlock has created a power vacuum that militants have successfully exploited.

Security officials could be seen roaming the blast site in Mansour as ambulances and other vehicles blocked the road leading to the checkpoint near a branch office of the Ministry of National Security that police say was targeted.

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