BAGHDAD — Mass bombings continued for a second day Thursday throughout Iraq, killing dozens of people and wounding more than 130 in at least three cities a week after the U.S. military withdrew combat forces from Iraq's major cities.
The widely scattered violence raised fears of a resurgence of the sectarian trauma that plunged the country into a low-grade civil war in 2006-07. Reports have surfaced about a return of the ethnic expulsions by Sunni Muslim and Shiite Muslim insurgents that led to the war's bloodiest months
Separately, U.S. military authorities released five Iranian diplomats whom they'd held prisoner since 2007. After the men were released to Iraqi authorities, they met with Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.
The city that was hit the hardest Thursday was Tal Afar, in northern Iraq west of Mosul, where two suicide car bombers killed at least 35 people in successive explosions. Several of the victims had rushed to the scene of the first blast to help the wounded when a second car detonated. At least 65 people were hurt in the incidents, which occurred near the home of a police officer who works with the local anti-terrorism unit.
In Baghdad, 16 people died in four separate incidents. Seven people were killed and 20 wounded when two homemade bombs blew up in a marketplace in the Shiite-majority Sadr City district in eastern Baghdad. Nine more were killed and 35 wounded by when two homemade roadside bombs exploded in the northeastern part of the city.
Six people were hurt in another bombing in south Baghdad, and five were wounded when a roadside bomb targeted a convoy that was carrying the head of Iraq's central bank, Sinan al Shibibi, through the city's Karrada district. The banker wasn't hurt.
In Ramadi in Anbar province, a city that the U.S. military has hailed as a success story in counterinsurgency, a suicide car bomber wounded four police officers.
In Diyala province, the commander of a checkpoint in central Baqouba said that the Iraqi army had taken control. "That's why we are beginning to remove the concrete barriers from the streets," Saddam Ahmed al Dulaimi said. "The situation is calm, and the neighborhoods are safe."
However, a Shiite shopkeeper in the town center said he knew of seven houses belonging to Shiite families that had been blown up since U.S. combat forces withdrew from major Iraqi cities June 30. The families had returned after Sunni insurgents forced them to leave their homes two years ago.
"I used to open my shop in the morning, close it to have lunch at home and open it again until 8 p.m.," Abbas Farhan Hussein said. Now he's open only in the mornings and early afternoons. "It's no joke," he said. "I'm afraid for my life and for my family."
Another downtown merchant who owns a mobile phone shop said that conditions had clearly improved before the American drawdown. Then security was turned over to the so-called Sons of Iraq, mostly Sunnis whom the U.S. had paid to be neighborhood watchers, and now the Iraqi army and national police are in charge. "That (peace) is lost to us now," said Omer Nebeel al Salihi, who's a Sunni. "Now we feel we have to be indoors before dark."
The deputy director of parliament's security committee called the bombers "criminals trying to kill Iraqis." Abdul Kareem al Samarra'i said that unstable politics contributed to unstable security.
"Real political reconciliation that includes all parties and controlling Iraq's borders with neighboring countries can help improve the security situation, not only in Mosul, but all over Iraq," he said.
(Tharp reports for the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star. McClatchy special correspondents Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi in Baghdad and a special correspondent in Diyala, who can't be named for security reasons, contributed to this article.)
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