Bombings and Shootings Kill More Than 30 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) - Bombings and shootings killed more than 30 people
across Iraq on Monday, including high school students on their way
to final exams, part of a new round of violence ahead of next
week's deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from urban areas.

The attacks pushed the three-day Iraqi death toll over 100,
shattering a recent lull and adding fresh doubt to the ability of
government forces to protect people without U.S. soldiers by their
sides. American combat troops have already begun moving from
inner-city outposts to large bases outside Baghdad and other
cities.

Overall levels of violence remain low, but Iraqi officials have
warned that militants will likely carry out more attacks to erode
public confidence in the government as the Americans pull out of
cities by June 30 - the first step toward a full withdrawal from
the country by the end of 2011.

Many Iraqis support the withdrawal timeline, outlined in a
security pact that took effect this year. But others fear militants
will regroup without the visible presence of U.S. soldiers.

"There aren't enough Iraqi army and police and they're
ill-equipped to confront the terrorists," said Abdul-Salam
Mohammed, a 33-year-old car dealer in the former insurgent
stronghold of Baqouba, north of Baghdad. "The pullout is not in
our interest at this moment because we are still in the recovery
phase and not yet cured."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki acknowledged over the weekend
that more violence was likely but insisted Iraqi forces were ready
and called on Iraqis to remain steadfast in their support.

Monday's violence mainly struck Shiite neighborhoods in the
Baghdad area, starting with a roadside bombing of a minibus
carrying high school students from Sadr City to their final exams.

Police said the attack killed at least three students and
wounded 13 people. The U.S. military said only one civilian was
killed and eight wounded. Conflicting casualty tolls are common
following bombings in Iraq because victims are often taken to
multiple hospitals.

The bus was pockmarked with shrapnel, with blood-soaked
notebooks and ID cards left on the seats and the floor.

A bomb planted under a car also exploded on a road leading to a
checkpoint that controls access to a bridge into Baghdad's central
Green Zone, killing at least five people and wounding 20, according
to police and hospital officials.

The U.S. military put the casualty toll at two killed and six
wounded.

A roadside bomb later targeted a police patrol in another mainly
Shiite district in eastern Baghdad, killing three people and
wounding 25, police said, although the U.S. military said just two
were killed.

Hours later, a parked motorcycle loaded with explosives blew up
in an open-air public market in an impoverished, predominantly
Shiite area northeast of Baghdad, killing five people and wounding
22, police and hospital officials said.

A suicide car bomber also targeted the mayor's offices in Abu
Ghraib, a predominantly Sunni district west of Baghdad, killing
seven civilians, police said.

The car exploded before reaching the government building,
damaging a nearby U.S. vehicle that was providing security for a
meeting, U.S. military spokesman Maj. David Shoupe said, giving a
lower casualty toll of four killed along with 10 wounded including
three U.S. soldiers.

North of the capital and close to the Iranian border, a roadside
bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol, killing three Iraqi soldiers near
Khanaqin, according to the security headquarters in Diyala
province.

Gunmen also killed at least seven people in separate attacks in
the northern city of Mosul, including a woman and four Iraqi
security forces, according to separate police reports.

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

The violence came two days after the year's deadliest attack - a
truck bombing that killed at least 75 people in a mainly Shiite
Turkomen near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

U.S. commanders have acknowledged that car bombings and suicide
attacks are hard to stop, but they note that retaliatory violence
has not led to anything approaching the levels of sectarian
bloodshed that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006.

The Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - whose loyalists fought
fierce battles with the Americans before they were routed by a
U.S.-Iraqi crackdown and agreed to a cease-fire - called on the
government to protect Iraqis better.

But in a statement, the anti-American cleric blamed the violence
on the continued presence of U.S. troops in the country and
demanded a faster withdrawal. He also called on Iraqis to remain
peaceful.

"The Iraqi people are heading toward a new phase that might
lift them out from their suffering," the cleric said.


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