Blasts rock Iraqi cities ahead of U.S. pullout
Deadly bomb blasts hit three Iraqi cities on Monday, with insurgents using suicide bombers, car bombs and gunmen to attack civilians and Iraqi security forces, killing scores just months ahead of a pullout of U.S. forces.
A broader wave of bloody attacks over the weekend affected 10 cities, and left more than 160 people wounded and the media speculating on a link to the country's talks with Washington over the establishment of a U.S. military training mission in the country to last beyond a projected year-end American withdrawal.
Monday's violence struck from the northern city of Kirkuk to the southern cities of Najaf and Kut.
Iraqi officials say two bombs exploded in the southern city of Kut, about 100 miles southeast of the capital, Baghdad, killing at least 34 people and wounding 60 others.
A roadside bomb exploded first, followed by a car bomb which went off as people arrived at the scene, VOA reports.
At about the same time, a suicide car bomber plowed his vehicle into a checkpoint outside a police building just outside the holy city of Najaf, CBS reports:
Police opened fire on the vehicle when the driver refused to stop at the checkpoint, and then the vehicle exploded. Al-Yassiri said four people were killed and 32 injured; among the dead were two policemen and two civilians.
And in the northern city of Kirkuk, a car bomb exploded next to a police patrol Monday morning, wounding four police officers, while a motorcyclist there was killed when a bomb planted inside his bike exploded.
The bombings followed just hours after four bombs blew up near a Syrian Orthodox Church in Kirkuk late Sunday.
Meanwhile, The New York Times, citing security officials, reported that there had been at least 11 explosions in Diyala Province, a restive area about 20 miles northeast of Baghdad, with six killed and many wounded.
The paper also said three security officers, including a high-ranking counterterrorism officer, were killed and at least 10 wounded in an attack by two suicide bombers in Salahuddin Province.
According to NBC:
The Kut blasts were the first major act of violence since Iraq's political leaders earlier this month announced that they would begin negotiations with the U.S. over whether to keep a small number of American forces in the country past Dec. 31.