More bombs in Iraq cities as deadline nears for withdrawal

BAGHDAD — At least 24 Iraqis were killed and more than 80 others wounded Monday in the latest wave of violence sweeping Iraq, Iraqi police said Monday.

The attacks were concentrated in Baghdad and came just days before the June 30 deadline for U.S. combat forces to withdraw from major Iraqi cities, raising questions about whether Iraqi security forces will be able to take control of the country's security.

Defense Ministry officials weren't available for comment. 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.

Late last week, Col. John Robinson, the Multi-National Corps Iraq spokesman, issued a statement: "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. Nevertheless, the numbers of overall attacks in Iraq have remained relatively low for several months."

Five explosion struck Baghdad on Monday.

The first was a suicide car bomb that targeted a municipal planning council's building in the Abu Ghraib suburb of west Baghdad.

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 the press, said he was in a courtyard near a building where American and Iraqi forces are stationed when the explosion took place. "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 few minutes later, while the other man was taken to a Baghdad hospital.

A second car bomb killed five people and wounded 20 in downtown Baghdad near one of the main gates into the International Zone, where hte U.S. embassy and govenrment offices are located. Mohammed Reyadh, 41, who owns a money exchange nearby, saw shards of broken glass flying through the air while he was talking to friends. The car bomb detonated less 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."

A roadside bomb near a marketplace in northeast Baghdad killed three and wounded 30, and three high school students were killed and 15 others, mostly students, were injured when two roadside bombs detonated in Sadr City, Baghdad's densely populated Shiite Muslim sector.

In Diyala Province north of Baghdad, a bomb killed three security officers working for the Ministry of Oil. In Mosul, scene of a gresome truck bomb explosion Saturday that left 73 dead and more than 250 wounded, two gunmen attacked a downtown police checkpoint, killing two officers. Police killed one of the attackers and arrested the other. Not far from the checkpoint, other gunmen broke into a house and killed a young woman, police said.