- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BAGHDAD (AP)

Car bombs and a suicide attacker struck crowd-ed areas in Baghdad and former insurgent strongholds to the north and west of the capital yesterday, killing nearly 60 people and breaking a recent lull in violence in the predominantly Sunni areas.

The attacks were a deadly reminder of the threat posed by suspected Sunni insurgents, even as clashes between Shi’ite militia fighters and U.S.-Iraqi forces continued elsewhere.

The first blast yesterday occurred in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, when a car parked in front of a restaurant exploded just before noon across the street from the central courthouse and other government offices.

Many of the victims were people visiting the government offices, petition writers helping people with documents in stalls outside or the occupants of cars that were caught in the explosion as they passed through the area, witnesses said. Several cars and minibuses were set ablaze, while more than 10 shops and the restaurant were heavily damaged.

At least 40 people were killed and 70 were wounded in the blast, according to hospital officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

The U.S. military in northern Iraq gave a slightly lower toll, saying 35 Iraqi citizens were killed, including a policeman, and 66 wounded in the attack. It also said three buses were destroyed and 10 shops were damaged.

It was the deadliest bombing in Iraq since a pair of female suicide bombers struck two pet markets, killing 99 people in a coordinated attack in Baghdad on Feb. 1.

A suicide attacker on a motorcycle later drove up to a kebab restaurant in Ramadi and detonated his explosives vest around 12:30 p.m. yesterday, killing at least 13 people, including three policemen, and wounding 20, police Capt. Abu Saif al-Anbari said. Hospital officials said two children were among the dead.

Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, is the capital of Anbar province and has largely been sealed off by checkpoints.

Like Baqouba, the area has seen a sharp decline in violence in recent months as tribal leaders have joined forces with the Americans against al Qaeda in Iraq.

The U.S. military said overall attacks in Diyala province have dropped more than 76 percent since June 2007.

“Although attacks such as today’s event are tragic, it is not indicative of the overall security situation in Baqouba,” Maj. Mike Garcia, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Diyala, said in a statement.

A parked car bomb also targeted a police patrol in central Baghdad, killing four civilians who were passing by and wounding 15 others, police said.


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