50 killed in latest wave of Iraq blasts

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The Independent Online

At least 50 people were killed today in Iraq's spiralling violence, including 24 people whose bus was blasted by a roadside bomb. Many of the passengers were soldiers.

Fourteen people were killed in a car bomb attack in an upscale Baghdad neighbourhood. Ten other people died elsewhere in the country.

The military bus was carrying about 35 Iraqi soldiers when it was hit by the bomb early today in Ruwashyid village in northern Iraq, said a police captain. The area is near the industrial city of Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad.

Police said initially that 20 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the bus. Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari confirmed that many among the passengers were soldiers, but said he did not know their number.

In the Karradah neighbourhood of Baghdad, the bomb-laden car parked near a bank, exploded during the morning rush hour, killing at least 14 people and injuring 37, said police Lt. Col. Abbas Mohammed Salman. The target was well chosen because Iraqi security forces draw their salaries from the bank on the first of every month.

Karradah has seen increasing violence in the sectarian fighting between Shiites and Sunnis in recent months. Last Thursday, rockets and mortars rained down in the neighbourhood, collapsing an apartment house, shattering shops and killing 31 people. A car bomb also exploded at the same time.

In other violence today:

- A car bomb targeting a police patrol killed one policeman and six civilians in northern Iraq, said an official of a joint Iraqi-US security force centre. The bombing occurred in Muqdadiyah in Diyala province, one of Iraq's most violent parts, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

- A roadside bomb narrowly missed a car belonging to the Ministry of Electricity, killing one civilian and wounding another in Zayouna in eastern Baghdad, said Police Capt. Mohammed Abdul Ghani.

- In Karma area, 25 miles west of Baghdad, two insurgents were killed when a roadside bomb they were planting on a highway detonated prematurely, police 1st Lt. Ahmed Ali said.

Random violence and kidnappings have become commonplace in Iraq, especially in Baghdad. Much of the violence is blamed on the Shia-Sunni conflict, but some of it is also the handiwork of criminals who see a lucrative business in abductions for ransom.

Gunmen dressed in military fatigues burst into the offices of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and a nearby mobile phone company yesterday, seizing 26 people in a daylight raid in a mostly Shiite area of the capital. The same day, a millionaire businessman and his two sons were abducted from their car in Baghdad.

All the victims were believed to be Iraqis. The Iraqi-American Chamber is an independent organisation not affiliated with the US government, and maintains branches throughout Iraq and in Amman, Jordan.

The Interior Ministry denied that the kidnappers were police - despite the uniforms - and blamed the attack on "terrorists," Iraqi state television reported.

US officials estimate an average of 30-40 people are kidnapped each day in Iraq, although the real figure may be higher because few families contact the police. Security officials believe most of the ransoms end up in the hands of insurgent and militia groups.

The government said that since February, 30,359 families - or about 182,000 people - had fled their homes due to sectarian violence and intimidation. That represented an increase of about 20,000 people from the number reported July 20.