Insurgents exploit Iraq's power vacuum, US withdrawal

In the deadliest violence since the US formally ended its combat role in Iraq, 37 people were killed on Sunday in Baghdad and Fallujah.

Bassim Shati/Reuters
A resident inspects the site of Sunday's deadly car bomb attack near an office of mobile phone operator Asiacell, part-owned by Qatar Telecommunications Co, in western Baghdad September 20.

A string of bombings killed 37 people Sunday in Iraq's deadliest day since Aug. 31, when President Barack Obama said the US military's 7-year-old combat mission there had ended.

Twin car bombs exploded within moments of each other around 11 a.m. in Baghdad – one near a facility housing federal police, which killed 19 people, the other a few miles away at a busy intersection in the Mansour neighborhood, killing 10, Iraqi authorities said. More than 110 people were injured.

Hours later, a suicide bomber drove into an Iraqi army checkpoint in central Fallujah, a heavily guarded city 40 miles west of Baghdad. Three soldiers and three civilians were killed, and 14 others were injured.

The bombings underscored the dangers still posed by insurgents as American troops cede control over security to Iraqi forces. The US military has drawn down to fewer than 50,000 soldiers who now serve in what officials describe as an advisory role, although they have continued to engage in military operations alongside Iraqi forces.

Although Iraqi military and police now man the country's ubiquitous checkpoints, they remain vulnerable to attack and have failed to win public confidence.

The attack in Fallujah was particularly brazen because Iraqi security forces guard all entrances to the city and bar nonresidents from entering. While no group immediately claimed responsibility, the attack might have been in response to last week's joint US-Iraqi military raid on a suspected insurgent's residence, which left seven people dead.

Insurgents also appear to be exploiting a power vacuum in Iraq as negotiations over forming a new government remain deadlocked six months after national elections.

The Iraqiya political bloc led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, which won a narrow plurality of parliamentary seats in March, issued a statement expressing "deep concern at the deterioration of security in Iraqi cities" and denouncing the loss of life in the Fallujah raid.

In a separate incident, a so-called sticky bomb on a minibus exploded on a highway near the Ghazaliyah section of Baghdad, killing a father and his son.

Two mortar shells struck the US Embassy inside the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad but caused no injuries, according to Iraqi police. As a policy, the US Embassy wouldn't confirm whether there had been an attack.

(Dulaimy is a McClatchy special correspondent. Special correspondent Jamal Naji contributed to this article from Fallujah.)


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McClatchy's Middle East Diary

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