BAGHDAD — A spate of four car bombs that struck various parts of Baghdad within a 24-hour period Wednesday and Thursday seemed to mark an end to what had been a lull in such attacks.
The most spectacular of the blasts struck a crowded bus terminal in the Bayaa neighborhood during the morning rush hour Thursday. At least 25 people were killed, most of them waiting for rides to work. About 40 minibuses were incinerated, police reported.
It was just one in a series of explosions that began Wednesday afternoon when a suicide car bomb exploded at an police checkpoint on the western side of al Jadiriyah Bridge in the capital, killing one police officer and injuring six people, including three civilians.
Another car bomb exploded late Wednesday in the Khadamiya neighborhood, killing at least 14 people, followed by Thursday morning's blast.
The fourth bomb exploded during lunchtime in the Mansour neighborhood, killing four.
The U.S. military has said recently that stopping car bombs is a major reason for its military campaigns in areas outside Baghdad, where American troops claim to have dismantled 10 car-bomb "factories" this year, including three this month.
Whether those actions are responsible for a precipitous drop in car bombings in the capital this month is unclear. The Iraqi government declared a four-day curfew earlier this month that banned traffic in the capital after unknown assailants blew up two minarets at a Shiite Muslim shrine in the town of Samarra, 65 miles north of Baghdad. That curfew may have been a factor in the decline.
Data that McClatchy Newspapers gathered show that as of midday Thursday, 17 car bombs have exploded in the capital this month, a drop from February's peak of 45. From December through May, car bombings in Baghdad averaged 36 a month, according to the data, which McClatchy collects from Iraqi officials and independent sources.
U.S. officials hail the dismantling of car-bomb factories, but aren't declaring victory.
"Every one we pull down is one that's not going to hit someone," spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver told McClatchy on Wednesday. "I wouldn't want to start claiming, 'Hey, we got them all,' and then five go off in one day," he added. "We're realistic in our progress. We're cautiously optimistic."
In all, at least 36 people died in violence Thursday in the capital, including three when mortar rounds struck the popular Shorja market area in central Baghdad.
Mortar rounds struck at least six other neighborhoods during the day, the most serious of which killed four civilians in the al Fadhl neighborhood, police said. One round fell in the heavily fortified Green Zone, but no casualties were reported.
In addition, police found 15 unidentified bodies on Baghdad streets.
Interior Ministry officials dismissed news reports that 20 headless bodies had been found near Salman Pak south of Baghdad. The report, distributed by the Associated Press, cited two unidentified police sources.
(Drummond reports for The Charlotte Observer.)