BAGHDAD — At least 24 Iraqis were killed and 78 were wounded Monday in the latest wave of violence sweeping the country, Iraqi police said.
The attacks, which were concentrated in Baghdad, came just days before the June 30 deadline for U.S. combat forces to finish withdrawing from major Iraqi cities. The attacks raise questions about the readiness of Iraqi security forces and their ability to control the recently unstable security situation.
Officials at the Ministry of Defense weren't available for comment Monday. U.S. military officials have warned that insurgents and what they call "criminal groups" might unleash violent acts to try to terrorize Iraqi cities as Americans pull out.
In a statement late last week, Col. John Robinson, the Multi-National Corps Iraq spokesman, said that "disrupted groups of terrorists and criminals continue to use high-profile attacks against vulnerable and innocent civilians as a means of creating the perception of an increase in violence in Iraq." He added that "the numbers of overall attacks in Iraq have remained relatively low for several months."
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In Baghdad, there were five explosions Monday, including two car bombs in different parts of the city. The first car bomb blew up in the Abu Ghraib suburb of west Baghdad. Iraqi police said that the suicide bomber had parked near a building that houses the local planning council.
A longtime security employee at the hospital in Abu Ghraib, who asked that his name not be used because he isn't authorized to talk to journalists, said he was in a courtyard near a building where American and Iraqi forces were stationed when the bomb exploded, killing 7 people and wounding 13.
"People were on the ground shouting and crying," he said. "There were three wounded women in a minibus, including a 9-year-old girl. I started helping the injured people and took out the driver of the bus and another man." The driver died a few minutes later, and the other man was taken to a Baghdad hospital.
In downtown Baghdad near one of the main gates into the International Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy, a car bomb killed five people and wounded 20. Mohammed Reyadh, 41, who owns a money exchange nearby, saw shards of glass flying through the air while he was talking to friends. The bomb detonated less than 20 feet away from him, but an iron gate protected him. "I saw one of my friends when he died," he said. "He had just gotten off a bus when the explosion happened. I also saw an old woman and her son dead inside the same bus."
Added Mustafa Abdul Jaleel Reyadh, who owns a chandelier store next door: "We can't feel safe at all. I feel afraid when I walk in the streets because I expect an explosion any moment. The situation will not change even after the departure of the American forces, because one hand cannot clap. We must unite to defeat terror."
Three civilians also were killed and 30 wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a marketplace in northeast Baghdad. Three high school students were killed and 15 other residents, mostly students, were wounded when two roadside bombs detonated in Sadr City, a crowded Baghdad slum.
In Diyala province, north of Baghdad, a bomb killed three security officers who worked for the Ministry of Oil.
In Mosul, the scene of a gruesome truck bombing Saturday that left 73 dead and more than 250 wounded, two gunmen attacked a downtown police checkpoint Monday, killing two officers. Police killed one of the attackers and arrested the other one. Not far from the checkpoint, other gunmen broke into a house and killed a young woman, police said.
(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent. Michael Tharp of the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star contributed to this article from Baghdad.)
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