17 Killed In Blasts Across Baghdad

By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

BAGHDAD, July 23 -- A string of car bomb attacks left at least 17 people dead in Baghdad on Monday, many of them civilians killed by three blasts in one of the city's busiest neighborhoods. Police said 21 people died in other violent incidents across the country.

The violence occurred as the U.S. military continues to cite the success of the Baghdad security plan, which was launched in February when the first of nearly 30,000 additional American troops arrived in Iraq. Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, the security plan's chief spokesman, said Sunday that the overall level of violence in the capital has been on a steady decline.

The first two bombs detonated nearly simultaneously just down the street from each other in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood. One targeted an Iraqi police patrol, the other an outdoor market where women browsed aisles of fruit and vegetables. Three police officers and six civilians were killed, and 14 people were injured, police said.

A short time later, a third car bomb exploded in a city plaza less than a mile away, killing three people in an attack that police speculated was linked to the first two. Two of the dead were police officers passing by, authorities said.

As American soldiers sorted through the rubble left by the blasts, a fourth car bomb detonated next to the U.S.-controlled Green Zone just across the Tigris River. The blast killed an additional four people, some of whom were eating lunch at a popular kebab restaurant near the line of cars approaching a checkpoint to enter the heavily fortified compound.

A fifth blast, caused by a minibus packed with explosives, killed one person in the eastern part of the city, police said.

More than 25 people have been killed by car bombs in Karrada in the last two weeks despite the U.S. military's ramped-up security efforts across the capital. Attacks in Karrada are particularly troubling because of its location in the center of the city and its prominence as a shopping district generally considered to be one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods.

Fox told reporters Sunday that the military is undertaking a "massive effort" to rebuild infrastructure and increase security in commercial districts of Baghdad such as Karrada and nearby Abu Nuwas Street.

"There's a feeling of momentum, of initiative here," he said. "There's definitely a feeling from a security point of view that all of these efforts are beginning to gain traction."

The number of mass-casualty bombings in the capital has declined since the additional troops arrived, according to U.S. military statistics, but smaller-scale violence has persisted. Police found 17 unidentified bodies, considered a key indicator of sectarian violence, in different areas of the capital Monday.

No group asserted responsibility for Monday's bombings.

The sectarian violence is to be one topic of discussion at a meeting Tuesday between the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq. The U.S. military has accused Iranian operatives of arming insurgent groups, which Iran denies.

The two countries agreed over the weekend to meet to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have intensified over their respective roles in Iraq since a May 28 meeting.

Also on Monday, gunmen ambushed a convoy of commercial trucks near the Iranian border, killing five people and kidnapping three others, police said. A roadside bomb near another part of the border, in southern Diyala province, killed five Iraqi soldiers, according to police. And at least 11 other people died in smaller incidents.

Four U.S. troops were killed over the weekend, the U.S. military announced Monday. Three were killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad, south of the capital and in Samarra on Saturday and Sunday, while another was killed in combat in Anbar province, to the west of the city, a news release said.

Special correspondents Dalya Hassan and Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad and Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.

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