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Twin bomb attacks kills 35 people north of Baghdad

As Iraq debates whether to ask the United States to keep some American troops here past their year-end withdrawal deadline, twin bomb attacks kill at least 35 people.

Image: AP Photo/ Karim Kadim

DOUBLE BLASTS FROM a car bomb and a roadside bombing at a parking lot outside a city council building north of Baghdad killed at least 35 people on Tuesday, Iraqi police and hospital officials said.

The explosions in Taji, a Sunni-dominated town about 20 kilometres north of Baghdad, are the latest in a series of attacks across Iraq as the government and political leaders debate whether to ask the United States to keep some American troops here past their year-end withdrawal deadline from the country.

“It was awful … some of the lightly wounded people were running in all directions, either crying or screaming for help,” a policeman who identified himself only by his nickname, Abu Haider, said at the scene. He said he was not authorized to give his full name.

Eyewitnesses said burnt human bodies, some of them women, were lying on the ground and that about 20 cars were on fire.

The attack started when insurgents first detonated a car bomb around noon in the parking lot of Taji’s local council building, police officials said.

That blast was followed by a roadside bomb that went off as civilians and security forces gathered to help the victims from the first explosion, the officials said. Most of the victims happened to be outside the council building at the time of the blasts.

At least four ambulances were seen waiting for permission from the Iraqi army, which had sealed off the area, to get to the wounded. A doctor at a hospital confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Baghdad’s military operations command that is in charge of security in Taji, called the attack a “security breach” and said authorities ordered an investigation.

He put the death toll at 27 and said 50 were wounded. Conflicting reports on casualties are common in the immediate aftermath of big attacks in Iraq.

While violence in Iraq is now well below levels it was at during intense Shiite-Sunni sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, militants have again stepped up deadly attacks. That has prompted concerns about what will happen when the 47,000 remaining US troops pull out.

On 23 June, bombs ripped through Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing at least 40 people. Two days earlier, a twin explosion that included a suicide car bombing outside a government compound south of Baghdad killed 22 people.

Earlier, officials in Baghdad said a late Monday night rocket attack on Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone killed four and wounded 10 people. Militants fired a Katyusha rocket as Americans were celebrating Fourth of July at the US Embassy, which is inside the Green Zone, officials said.

The rocket hit a residential complex for laborers working at a hotel and sparked a fire. The sprawling Green Zone houses the Iraqi government headquarters and the U.S. and British embassies. It’s a favorite target for insurgents’ mortar and Katyusha attacks.

- AP

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