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2 Blasts In Iraq Aimed at Shiites

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"They want to bring the sectarian violence again," Qaiz said. "They want to destroy the Iraqi unity. Only innocent people were lost in the explosion."

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Behind the hospital, near an overflow morgue, three women sat on the ground, wailing for lost sons as they pounded their chests and smeared dirt on their faces.

"I only have Mohammed!" one screamed to no one in particular, shaking violently. "He is my only son. I lost him today."

This capital, scarred and traumatized by years of war, had become quieter and safer over the past couple of years. But few ordinary Iraqis saw the lull as a clear turning point; many feared that extremist groups were lying low, waiting for the U.S. military to withdraw.

Sunni insurgents, who last month announced a new wave of attacks code-named Good Harvest, have carried out numerous bombings in recent weeks in Shiite areas. Iraqi officials have played down the violence, calling it a response to the reported detention of the mysterious leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, known by the nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

U.S. officials have not confirmed the report, and many Iraqis are skeptical of it because the government has claimed, falsely, to have arrested him in the past. Some U.S. intelligence officials view Baghdadi as a fictional figure created to give the insurgent group, run by non-Iraqi Arabs, an Iraqi identity.

Salim Abdullah al-Jubori, a Sunni lawmaker, said a sense of abandonment among Sunni paramilitary groups formed and funded by the U.S. military may be fueling the insurgency. He said the United States has stopped paying the men and handed responsibility for them to the Iraqi government, which many of them distrust.

As the United States begins its phased withdrawal, which is expected to conclude by the end of 2011, Iraqis remain deeply divided along political and sectarian lines. Although Shiites have not retaliated against Sunnis for the recent carnage, the mistrust and dissatisfaction many Iraqis feel toward their government could prompt Shiite militias once again to take up arms.

"Saddam Hussein led Iraq very well!" a distraught woman yelled to a reporter Friday as she cradled a young, weeping son. Her 35-year-old husband was among the dead, she said.

"We have a corrupt government. They can't protect us. If you're a man, publish that!" she cried.

When a convoy of government vans with tinted windows arrived at the hospital, several bystanders heckled its occupants.

"Is this the reconciliation you are talking about?" a teenage boy demanded. "Allah curses you all!"

Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said the bombings over the past two days "make you concerned about the fragility of the security." But he said there are no plans to slow the withdrawal of American forces from Iraqi cities.

Some specialty units, including a battalion of about 500 engineers, are in the midst of pulling out of Iraq and moving to Afghanistan, where violence has risen dramatically in recent months. U.S. troops also are in the final stages of withdrawing from Baqubah, north of the capital, and are in the process of pulling out of Baghdad, Odierno said. U.S. troops are likely to remain longest in Mosul, where fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq retain a foothold.

Staff writers Ann Scott Tyson in Washington and Greg Jaffe in Baghdad and special correspondents Zaid Sabah and K.I. Ibrahim contributed to this report.


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