- Jul 11, 2006
I wonder what happened in the life of Britney Spears today
A pair of attacks in central Baghdad's commercial district yesterday killed at least 68 people, a security source said, making it the second deadliest assault in Iraq this year.
The assault -- a roadside bomb followed by a suicide attack -- ripped through Al-Atar Street in the Karada neighbourhood.
In addition to the dead, 154 others were wounded, a security source from the interior ministry said on Friday, adding that among the casualties were several women and children who had gone out shopping.
Today, relatives carried the bodies of loved ones killed in the attack to be buried in Najaf, an AFP photographer said.
A number of roadside stalls had been destroyed, and windows of nearby shops and homes were broken.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered security forces to "chase and arrest the criminals" who committed the attack, a statement from his office said.
"He blamed the terrorists and condemned the latest barbaric crime against the civilians," the statement added.
An interior ministry official said the attack was coordinated to inflict maximum casualties and appeared to be the work of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"First a roadside bomb went off and as people and police gathered to rescue the victims, a suicide bomber blew himself up amid the crowd," he said.
The worst attack this year was on Feb. 1, when bombings in the capital's bird market killed 100 people.
The bombings came after the U.S. military announced a reduction in troops on the back of what it claims to be a drop in violence across the country.
Yesterday, the military said some 2,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, deployed in last year's surge, would not be replaced once they leave the country, likely within the next few weeks.
Once the brigade re-deploys, "the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq will drop from 19 to 18, with three additional brigades scheduled to redeploy by July. The unit will not be replaced," a statement said.
The redeployment "represents the increased capability and progress being made in Iraq by the Iraqi security forces to provide their own security," said said Colonel Billy Buckner, a spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Iraq.
The U.S. military currently has 158,000 troops in Iraq.
Figures collected by AFP on March 1 from the interior, defence and health ministries show that violence in Iraq surged in February after drop in each of the the six months to January.
Iraq saw 721 people killed in February, a 33 percent rise over January, when 541 people were killed. That was down from 1,856 last August.
The drop over six months was attributed to a "surge" of an extra 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, the formation by Sunni leaders of anti-Qaeda fronts and a ceasesfire by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.
Today, in another attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police station in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Four policemen were killed and 17 people wounded, including 15 policemen, police officials said.
The bomber attacked the Al-Waqhas police station in the Ras al-Jadha neighbourhood at around 7:00 a.m.
"We have received bodies of four policemen killed," doctor Ghanim Ahmed at the Mosul general hospital told AFP.
A police officer said the targeted neighbourhood housed several government offices, including one belonging to the interior ministry.
The U.S. military claims Mosul to be the last urban bastion of the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda and is involved in a massive operation there.
It says U.S. and Iraqi forces have managed to dent the Islamist group's networks elsewhere in the country, especially in the west and the centre following which the group has focused on Mosul, the third largest city of Iraq.
On Jan. 25, Maliki said a "decisive battle" against al-Qaeda would be launched in Mosul.
Residents of Mosul, 230 miles from Baghdad, have been stocking up with supplies in anticipation of the battle, traders say.