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43 killed in surge of Iraq violence

15 august 2011, 16:01
Twin bomb blasts in the southern Iraqi city of Kut killed 33 people on Monday, the worst of a spate of nationwide violence that left 43 dead, just months ahead of a pullout of US forces, AFP reports.

The surge of attacks in seven cities, which wounded around 125 people, raise major questions over the capabilities of Iraq's security forces after the country's leaders agreed to open talks with Washington over a military training mission to last beyond a projected year-end American withdrawal.

In Monday's deadliest attack, the bloodiest since July, an explosives-packed car and a roadside bomb detonated minutes apart at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) in the centre of Kut, medical and security officials said.

"We have so far received 33 dead bodies and are now treating 52 injured," said Ali Hussein, a doctor at Kut's Al-Zahra hospital. He said there were women and children among the casualties.

A security official in the city said the explosions occurred in a crowded area in the centre of the city, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of the capital.

The attack was the worst in the city since August 3, 2010, when two car bombs also killed 33 people, and the single deadliest in Iraq since July 5 this year, when twin suicide bombs killed 35 in Taji, just outside Baghdad.

In the restive central Iraqi city of Baquba, north of the capital, four soldiers were killed by gunmen using silenced weapons targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint early on Monday morning, according to an official in the provincial security command centre.

Three other bomb blasts in Baquba and a town to its south left 31 wounded, the official said, and the provincial government offices have been evacuated.

And in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, also north of the capital, three policemen were killed and at least seven others injured when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives-packed vests inside an anti-terror bureau in the city, an official in Salaheddin provincial operations command said.

Two car bombs, one of them detonated by a suicide attacker, also killed two people and wounded 17 others in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in south Iraq, according to provincial police chief General Abdul Karim Mustafa.

Another civilian was killed and 14 others were wounded by separate explosions in the disputed northern city of Kirkuk, police and a doctor at the city's hospital said.

A car bomb in Mansur, west Baghdad, also wounded five people, an interior ministry official said.

The attacks come after Iraqi leaders said on August 3 they would hold talks with the US over a security training mission to last beyond 2011, when all 47,000 American soldiers must withdraw under the terms of a 2008 bilateral security pact.

Violence in Iraq has declined from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 259 Iraqis were killed in attacks in July, the second-highest figure for 2011.

By Ali al-Alaak

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