BAGHDAD -- Eight people were killed and 14 were injured Wednesday in attacks on Baghdad's Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Shula, police said.
The violence started around noon when three mortar rounds hit the Jawadin marketplace in the center of Shula, wounding five civilians. Minutes later, gunmen attacked three goldsmiths, killing the storeowners and five other people and robbing the stores. As they left the area, the gunmen threw grenades that injured nine more people.
"I was in my shop when I heard the sound of the explosion," said Maitham Abu Zahra, 42, who has a cosmetic shop in the building where the first explosion happened. "It was a very loud sound followed by white smoke (that) covered market."
Gen. Mohammed al Askari, the Iraqi defense ministry spokesman, said he considered the incident a normal one that could happen in any country.
"I cannot accuse anyone of the incident of Shula," he said. "It is too early. The attack does not have any political motives. Its clear that the incident is only a robbery that was implemented by an organized gang."
Iraqi security forces closed the area and started a search for the gunmen, and the Baghdad operations command ordered the arrest of six soldiers, including one officer, who were manning a checkpoint near the marketplace, according to a statement on the command's Web site.
Two more attacks elsewhere in Baghdad targeted civilians. In the majority Sunni neighborhood of Athemiyah, gunmen planted a bomb under the car of Abdul Sattar Abdul Jabbar, the imam of the Abu Hanifa mosque. Abdul Jabber and his driver survived the explosion early Wednesday morning, but police said they were seriously wounded.
Three other civilians were injured in an intersection in downtown Baghdad when a bomb was detonated among the crowd.
The wave of attacks wasn't confined to the capital. Three explosions killed at least one civilian and injured 40 south of Baghdad in Karbala province, al Askari said.
The defense ministry spokesman said he thinks there were political motives behind the explosions in Karbala.
"These actions are against the government more than people," al Askari said. "The bombs are small locally made ones. The attackers did not want to cause big casualties."
(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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