- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

BAGHDAD (AP) - A string of deadly bombings in Baghdad killed 21 people and wounded at least 64 others Monday, as the U.S. military reported its first combat death in Iraq in about three weeks.

The deadliest attack occurred in the Shiite slum of Sadr City when a parked car bomb exploded in a market, killing 10 people, including three women and four children, and wounding at least 28 others, said Iraqi police and medical officials.

A total of four bomb attacks struck the city over a two-hour period, primarily in Shiite neighborhoods where people were either shopping or looking for work.

The first attack occurred at 7:30 a.m. when a car bomb exploded in the center of the capital, killing at least six people and wounding 16, said an Iraqi police official, who described them as mostly day laborers looking for work.

Salim Mutar, 18, a laborer wounded at the blast site, described a large fireball rising into the air.

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

About an hour later, a bomb targeting a police patrol in eastern Baghdad killed three more people and wounded eight others, said another police official.

Two other car bombs then exploded minutes apart in different markets elsewhere in the eastern parts of the capital, including Sadr City, killing a total of 12 people and wounding 40, said a security official.

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.

It was not clear if any of the attacks were connected. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

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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