Baghdad Car Bombing Kills at Least 22, Injures More Than 50

By Ernesto Londoño and Aziz Alwan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, December 28, 2008

BAGHDAD, Dec. 27 -- At least 22 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in a car bombing in northwestern Baghdad on Saturday afternoon in one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in weeks, Iraqi officials said.

The attack occurred at 12:15 p.m. in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiyah, which has been relatively safe in recent months.

An explosives-laden sedan blew up on a busy street just as a bus passed nearby, witnesses said. The bus caught fire, killing women and children inside.

Ali Abdul Ameer, 28, stayed behind at the scene after his wife and daughter were loaded into ambulances.

"There is no security," he said, standing near his wrecked car. "How come a car like this full of explosives could enter this area?"

The number of mass-casualty attacks in Baghdad has declined sharply in recent months as the city has been partitioned into walled-off sectors, sectarian tensions have ebbed and Iraqi security forces have become more skilled.

Meanwhile, three people were killed as they tried to defuse a roadside bomb in Babil province, south of Baghdad, said Capt. Muthanna Ahmed, a police spokesman.

The attacks occurred on a day that Iraq Body Count, a group that has sought to track the number of violent deaths in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, issued a report showing that the number of casualties dropped noticeably this year, most significantly in Baghdad.

Between 8,300 and 9,000 people were killed in Iraq this year -- or about 25 per day -- compared with more than 25,000 in 2006 and 22,000 in 2007, according to the group's data, culled from media reports and other sources.

For the first year since 2003, more violent deaths were reported outside the capital. Many of the attacks this year have targeted Iraqi security forces and neighborhood patrol groups that were created by the U.S. military and are credited with deflating the insurgency.

"They are replacing the police as the front line of the state security system, and so they are being targeted," said John Sloboda, the group's co-founder.

Also Saturday, in western Iraq, authorities said they killed one of three suspected insurgents who escaped from a jail Friday morning. Maj. Gen. Tariq Yusuf Dulaimi, a police commander in Anbar province, identified the escapee as Emad Farhan and said he was affiliated with the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Farhan had taken refuge in a house near the jail but was discovered when relatives of the homeowners tipped off the police, officials said.

A curfew set in Ramadi, capital of Anbar, after the pre-dawn jailbreak was lifted Saturday.

Special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim contributed to this report.

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