- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

BAGHDAD (AP) - A string of bombings rocked Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital on Monday _ including twin car bombs at a marketplace in western Baghdad _ in a deadly spree that left 33 people dead and 93 wounded, police and medical officials said.

It was the deadliest day in Iraq since last month’s bombings that targeted tribal leaders at a market in Abu Ghraib, just north of the capital, and a police academy in Baghdad.

The attacks come after Iraqi forces put down an uprising last week of a Sunni Awakening Council group in Baghdad angry over the arrest of their commander on terrorism and criminal charges.

Monday’s single deadliest attack was an 11:30 a.m. double car-bombing at the predominantly Shiite al-Maalif market in western Baghdad that killed 12 people and wounded 29 others, an Iraqi police official said. Burned hulks of cars and twisted metal were scattered across the marketplace, as Iraqi soldiers and police officers surrounded the bombing site, driving off onlookers and journalists.

The day’s violence started with a car bomb at 7:30 a.m. in the center of the capital, that killed at least six people and wounded 16, said a police official, who described the victims as mostly day laborers seeking work.

Later, a parked car bomb exploded at a market in the Shiite slum of Sadr City, killing 10 people, including three women and four children, and wounded at least 28 others, said Iraqi police and medical officials. Within minutes, another bomb went off, at another eastern Baghdad market, killing two more people and wounding 12, said a security official.

Salim Mutar, 18, one of the wounded laborers in the central Baghdad explosion, described a large fireball rising into the air.

“It shook the area,” said Mutar, who was hit in the arm by flying shrapnel. “I was so lucky.”

A roadside bomb targeting a three-vehicle police convoy carrying an Interior Ministry official in eastern Baghdad killed three people, including two of the official’s guards, and wounded eight others, said another police official.

The ministry official, identified only as a deputy director of homeland security, escaped the attack uninjured. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

In Sadr City, witnesses described chaos in the aftermath of the bombing. Local resident, Adnan al-Sudani, 37, rushed to the scene after the explosion and said he saw “several people dead and some burned.”

“When the Iraqi army forces arrived, they began firing randomly at people gathered to disperse them,” he said, adding that people responded by throwing stones at the soldiers.

Pieces of the car bomb were scattered across the area, with twisted metal strewn throughout the market’s stalls. Shoes and sandals, left behind by the dead and wounded, were piled on the ground.

The explosions come amid a period of relative calm in most of Iraq, where violence has dropped by more than 90 percent. But with U.S. forces drawing down their operations under a plan by President Barack Obama to remove combat troops from the country by Aug. 31, 2010, some U.S. military and Iraqi government officials have privately expressed concerns about an increase in violence.

U.S. military officials have repeatedly described recent attacks as last ditch efforts by insurgents to ignite the kind of sectarian strife that saw the country nearly torn apart by a civil war in 2006 and 2007.

The military also announced Monday that a U.S. soldier was killed in action the day before in Diyala province where insurgents remain active.

It was the first combat death suffered by U.S. forces in Iraq since March 16 when a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops remain targets of insurgents, whose attacks often kill or injure civilian bystanders.

Also in the Diyala province, unidentified gunmen killed two Kurds Sunday night in a drive-by shooting in Jalula, 80 miles (125 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi army Capt. Sarjo Ahmed said Monday.

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Associated Press Writer Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

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