Baghdad Bombings

By: Assosiated Press Email
By: Assosiated Press Email

BAGHDAD (AP) - Twin explosions including a suicide bombing
killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens early Tuesday near a
government compound in a rare attack in the Shiite heartland, Iraqi
officials said.

The blasts came as Iraq's top political factions started to
discuss in earnest whether to ask the U.S. to leave some of its
troops to stay beyond the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline because of
the security situation.

While violence is well below what it was during the years that
followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, militants are still able to
launch deadly attacks. The ongoing violence has led to concerns
about what happens when the 47,000 remaining U.S. troops are
withdrawn.

Still, such violence is rare in the mostly Shiite city of Diwaniyah, which is 80 miles (130 kilometers) outside of Baghdad and well south of most of the insurgent strongholds. There have been few suicide bombings there over the years.

Provincial Gov. Salim Hussein Alwan said he was leaving his
house when a suicide bomber rammed into a police checkpoint nearby.

"I was in the garage preparing to leave when the attacker hit
the police barrier outside and crashed with their vehicle," Alwan
told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The suicide bomber also crashed into a police vehicle that had
munitions inside, said Alwan and Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanimy, who
commands military operations in Qadisiyah province where Diwaniyah is located. That caused the police vehicle to explode.

A police officer and a member of the provincial council, Thamir
Naji, said there were two suicide bombers driving vehicles who blew
themselves up.

Conflicting accounts are common in the chaotic aftermath of such
attacks. The police official spoke on condition of anonymity
because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

At least 37 people were wounded in the blasts at about 7:30
a.m., when security forces were changing shifts, officials said.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said U.S. forces, including an
explosives ordinance team, were dispatched to assist Iraqis.

Like most government buildings in Iraq, the governor's house and
office are surrounded by walls, and visitors must pass through
checkpoints manned by security forces to get inside.

"I had no idea what happened," one security personnel told
state television from his bed at the hospital. "I heard only an
explosion, flew into the air and went back to the ground," he
added as his neck and abdomen were bandaged.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suicide
bombings and attacks against Iraqi government facilities are the
hallmark of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Sunni-led militants like al-Qaida in Iraq have often targeted
areas north of Diwaniyah, such as the city of Hillah, because they
are close to former al-Qaida strongholds in what used to be known
as the Triangle of Death.

But it's rare for Sunni militants to reach so deep into the south as Diwaniyah, where most of the violence has been the work of
Shiite militias in the past.

Iraqi officials said al-Qaida is trying to increase its presence
in the area.

"The recent reports indicate that al-Qaida exists in all of the
Middle Euphrates provinces, especially in Diwaniyah," al-Ghanimy
said, referring to the river that runs south through Iraq. "It is
a message to prove that it exists and can reach its targets."

The last major attacks in Diwaniyah was in 2009, when a bomb
attached to a bus killed six people, and in 2007, when roadside
bomb targeted a police patrol, killing seven officers.

Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni lawmaker and member of the parliament's
security and defense committees, blamed Tuesday's attack on
political disputes that have delayed appointments to top security
posts.

Iraq's prime minister has failed to fill the top posts at the
interior and defense ministries more than five months after he
seated his government for a second term. The country's warring
political factions have been unable to agree on who should run the
powerful and sensitive positions.

"We have said before that there is a failure in the security forces and they are infiltrated," al-Mutlaq said.

In Baghdad, a bomb attached to a minibus killed the driver while
the bus was driving Tuesday in the capital's western Harithiya
neighborhood, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Mousawi said. It was not immediately known what was the motive was behind the
attack.

Also, two soldiers were killed and five other people were wounded when a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi army patrol in Baghdad's
eastern Palestine Street, a police officer said.

An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility Tuesday for a
brazen attack last week against a government compound in
northeastern Iraq. Assailants set off a suicide car bomb and then
stormed the compound in Diyala province in an attack that left nine
people dead.

The Islamic State of Iraq, a front for al-Qaida in Iraq, has claimed responsibility for a number of similar recent attacks on government facilities.
---
Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed and Qassim Abdul-Zahra
contributed to this report.


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