BAGHDAD — A spate of explosions across Iraq killed at least 60 people Tuesday and resurrected fears that the security gains that the U.S. has been touting are now unraveling.
One of the four attacks occurred in Anbar province, which Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, hailed as proof of the success of the troop buildup strategy during his congressional testimony last week. Petraeus said the improved security situation in the once-restive province showed that residents there have rejected al Qaida in Iraq and its tactics.
But on Tuesday, officials said al Qaida was able to detonate a car bomb at a restaurant northwest of Ramadi, the province capital, killing at least 13 people and injuring 10 others. A second car bomb in the northeastern city of Baqouba killed 40 people, including children, and injured at least 80, police said. Other explosions hit Mosul in the north and Baghdad.
Ramadi residents said that the attacks signaled that the security gains were only temporary and that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's government can't maintain stability.
"Security circumstances before today were not really stable," said Ali Minawer al Ethawi, 33, a truck driver. The attacks are "a very bad sign since it may mean that the insurgents may be back once again."
Mohammed Ali al Fahdawi, a 23-year-old student, said he still thought that security was better in the area, but he said he doesn't think the government is doing enough to maintain safety.
"The government has too many issues to care about, and my province has very low priority and (is) at the bottom of the list," he said.
In the attack in Mosul, where the U.S. military is in the midst of a major offensive to rid the city of al Qaida in Iraq's influence, a suicide car bomb targeted a police vehicle.
When police responded to the attack, another car bomb exploded, injuring 17, including four police officers. Gunmen also killed seven people in separate incidents in Mosul on Tuesday.
In Baghdad, two civilians were killed and two others were wounded in a bombing near the al Alwiyah police station at about 7 a.m. At about 1:15 p.m., a civilian was killed and eight were wounded when a car bomb targeting the convoy of Maj. Ali Sabri, the director of police affairs directorate, exploded in the Karrada neighborhood.
Pentagon officials rejected suggestions that Tuesday's violence signaled a setback to the recent security gains. Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, called Tuesday's violence "horrific and spectacular exceptions."
Morrell said that statistics suggested that the violence trend lines "are pointing down."
But during his congressional testimony last week, Petraeus presented a chart that showed that the number of attacks in Iraq was rising. According to the chart, during the last week of March, there were roughly 670 attacks throughout Iraq, compared with about 550 at the beginning of the month.
(Yaseen Taha, a special correspondent from Diyala, contributed to this report. Ismail reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.)