Iraq blasts kill 'at least 42'

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The Independent Online

A double truck bombing tore through a Shia community near the northern city of Mosul, while blasts in Baghdad hit primarily Shia targetsin a wave of violence that killed at least 42 people, Iraqi officials said

The attacks provided a grim example of US military warnings that insurgents are trying to derail security gains as the Americans scale back their presence and raised fears that Sunni insurgents are increasingly striking Shia targets in an effort to re-ignite sectarian violence that nearly tore the country apart in 2006 and 2007.

The deadliest blast today was a double truck bombing in Khazna village, just east of Mosul, as the members of a Shiite minority ethnic group called the Shabak, who live there, were still sleeping.

Two explosives-laden trucks went off nearly simultaneously and less than 500 yards apart, killing at least 25 people and wounding 138, said Abdul Kareem al-Shimmari, a provincial council security official in Mosul. Hospital officials confirmed the casualties.

Those killed were all civilians because the trucks were parked in an alley and not near such targets as a police station.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of al-Qa'ida in Iraq and other Sunni insurgents who remain active in Mosul and surrounding areas.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene where rescuers searched through rubble of at least 15 houses that were destroyed. Many of the dead and wounded were sleeping on their roofs because lack of electricity and the heat made it to hot to sleep inside.

Mahmoud Hussein, 28, said he was asleep on a roof, about 150 yards away from the truck bombs, when then explosion flattened his house.

"If we had slept inside, we would have been killed," said Hussein, who suffered a head wound from flying debris.

Qusay Abbas, who represents the Shabak minority as a member of the Ninevah provincial council, blamed security forces for failing to secure the area on the northern outskirts of Mosul, which the US has called the last stronghold of al-Qa'ida in Iraq.

"I blame everyone who wants to divide Iraq, and every sectarian official shoulders responsibility for this crime," Abbas said.

The bombings today are the latest in the line of attacks targeting Shiites. On Friday, a suicide truck bomber devastated a mosque used by another minority, Shiite Turkomen, killing 44 people north of Mosul.

Bombs also continue to strike neighbourhoods in Baghdad despite security gains.

The first bomb today was hidden in a pile of trash when it exploded about 5:50 a.m. near a group of construction workers drinking tea and looking for day jobs in the religiously mixed neighborhood of Amil, killing at least seven people and wounding 46, officials said.

About 10 minutes later a car bomb targeted construction workers elsewhere in western Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and wounding 35, according to police.

Three bombs also exploded in the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah shortly before 7 a.m., wounding a member of a government-backed paramilitary group, an army official said.

Another bomb exploded 30 minutes later in Karradah in downtown Baghdad, wounding 4 people, a police official said.

That was followed a few hours later by two more roadside bombs in Baghdad — one in southwestern Baghdad and the other in eastern Baghdad — that wounded six people, an Iraqi police official said.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

Despite an overall drop in violence in the last two years, the US military has said the security gains are fragile and have urged restraint, particularly among Shiites, to prevent retaliatory attacks that brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2006.

The recent series of attacks have raised concerns about the ability of Iraqi security forces to contain violence as US combat troops wind down duties as part of a withdrawal plan that would see all American forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

The US has said the insurgency is waning, though still capable of pulling off sporadic, high-profile attacks that target primarily civilians and security forces.

On 9 July, a total of 56 people were killed in bombings in the northern, mainly Turkomen city of Tal Afar and Baghdad — the deadliest day since the handover.