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Bombs kill at least 8 at Iraqi market

Iraq's government announces it has indefinitely postponed a nationwide census after warnings that the population count could stoke ethnic and political tension.

August 17, 2009|Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Bombs hidden in plastic bags near a falafel stand exploded at a market in a mainly Shiite Muslim area of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 21, Iraqi officials said. It was the latest in a series of bombings targeting Shiites and minorities in the capital and northern Iraq.

The bags packed with explosives were left in a pile of garbage and exploded shortly before 8 p.m. as the district was crowded with people enjoying the evening.

Several nearby stores were also damaged, said police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information. Five children were among the wounded, they said.

The increase in violence comes after the June 30 withdrawal of American troops from urban areas, heightening concerns about the ability of Iraqi forces to protect the people. Political tensions also have risen as Iraq prepares for national elections in January.

Violence has fluctuated throughout the year, but the intense period of bombings in recent days has indicated a more sustained effort, with nearly 160 people killed in blasts since Aug. 7.

Raad Nasir, 26, owns a cellphone store in the area and was on his way to the falafel stand when the blast occurred.

"After I saw the horrible scene, I rushed home," he said. "We were starting to be happy that our area was safe and not like before, but now the terrorists have resumed their cowardly crimes against civilians."

Mindful of the fears, the Iraqi government announced Sunday that it had indefinitely postponed a nationwide census after warnings that it could stoke ethnic and political tension.

The population count, which had been scheduled for Oct. 24, would have settled controversies over the size of the country's religious and ethnic communities. It also had implications for decisions over the fate of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk as well as the budget allocation for the self-ruled Kurdish region in the north.

"The Planning Ministry is technically ready for the census, but after hearing some fears and reservations from political groups in Kirkuk and Nineveh, we decided to stall and the census has been postponed indefinitely," Planning Minister Ali Baban told reporters during a visit to the Shiite shrine city of Najaf.

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