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Two Bombs Kill Nearly 60 People, Injure Scores in Iraq

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Baqubah
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BAGHDAD, April 15 -- Two bombings killed nearly 60 people Tuesday in parts of Iraq where U.S. and Iraqi forces have claimed significant success in combating Sunni insurgent groups.

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A car bombing in central Baqubah, the capital of northeastern Diyala province, killed at least 47 people, an Iraqi military spokesman said. A suicide bomber in Ramadi, west of Baghdad in Anbar province, killed at least 10 people at a restaurant frequented by police, according to local officials. Bombs also exploded in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, but the U.S. military said those blasts did not cause fatalities.

The U.S. military said the bombings in Baqubah and Ramadi appeared to have been carried out by al-Qaeda in Iraq, a predominantly homegrown Sunni insurgent group that has often targeted policemen and other representatives of Iraq's Shiite-led government.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has conducted fewer attacks in recent months and seemed to have lost influence as a result of U.S.-led military operations and campaigns to turn the local population against the insurgency. American officials have warned that the group remains a potent threat.

U.S. and Iraqi commanders have focused lately on Shiite militias, after an Iraqi-led offensive in the southern city of Basra late last month that sparked violent resistance from militia members there and in Baghdad.

Iraqi officials in Diyala said Tuesday evening that the bomb, which was hidden in a Chevrolet sedan parked in a busy area known as Old Baqubah, also wounded 82 people. Earlier in the day, the U.S. military said the blast had killed 36 people and injured 67.

The victims included women and children, and many of the injured were in critical condition Tuesday, said Col. Ali Jassem, a spokesman for a local military center staffed by Iraqi and U.S. military personnel.

Jassem called the bombing the "most devastating attack to have taken place in Diyala since 2003," and noted that the assailants penetrated an area that was considered relatively secure.

"Half of the dead people are still at the Baqubah morgue because it is so hard to identify their bodies," Jassem said.

The bomb detonated at approximately 12:30 p.m. as people were filling out government forms at a nearby courthouse. It destroyed 15 vehicles, set 13 shops on fire and killed people in buses driving past the sedan at the time of the blast, Iraqi officials said.

The bomb killed at least one policeman and damaged a restaurant frequented by members of Iraq's security forces, Jassem said. Courthouses have been targeted in the past by Sunni insurgents, who reject the legitimacy of Iraq's government.

Courthouses have become busy in recent weeks because scores of Iraqis have filed applications to get loved ones released from government custody under a recently approved amnesty law.


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