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Iraq bombings kill 19

Dozens more are wounded across the country in a flurry of attacks three weeks after the U.S. military completed its withdrawal from Iraqi cities.

July 22, 2009|Ned Parker and Saif Hameed | Hameed is a Times staff writer.

BAGHDAD — Bombs killed 19 people and wounded 80 across Iraq in a flurry of attacks Tuesday, three weeks after the U.S. military completed its withdrawal from the cities.

At least six explosions struck both Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad. The Baghdad attacks, including two in the Sadr City district, resulted in 14 deaths.

Some Sadr City residents blamed splinter factions of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army militia for the attacks. The Sunni Arab militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq has been blamed for most of the violence in the Shiite district, but now many attacks there are thought to be the result of internal Shiite disputes.

A double bombing in Sadr City struck as laborers gathered for work early in the morning, killing four, police said, and an explosion hours later in a small market in the district killed three people.

A Shiite government official in Baghdad said that such bombings were probably carried out by groups with links to the Mahdi Army.

"They are doing many things. They are attacking the Iraqi army and civilians. Every three [or] four days there is an attack [in Sadr City]. . . . It serves Iran's interests," said the official, who refused to give his name because he feared for his safety.

A contractor in district, who identified himself as Abu Mohammed, saw the hand of Shiite militias in the blast. "Some militias which used to control the situation in the city . . . may have done these attacks," the contractor said. "We are still afraid of them but not like before."

He said that some groups want to discredit Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, whose political fortunes are tied to security gains and could quickly sink if attacks increase markedly now that U.S. forces have withdrawn from the cities.

The reclusive Sadr disappeared from public view in early 2007, taking up residence in Iran, where he has studied to become an ayatollah. Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Damascus, Syria, Sadr blamed U.S. forces for all problems in Iraq and endorsed armed struggle against the Americans.

"The resistance will remain open to all directions: military, political, peaceful and popular resistance. All those options are open to confront the occupation," Sadr told reporters.

In Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant where deputy provincial police chief Mohammed Dulaimi was having lunch. Five people were killed and 17 were wounded. The attack followed a car bombing Monday that killed three people outside the Anbar provincial council, police said.

Police slapped a ban on all unregistered vehicles in the Sunni-dominated province.

The attacks stirred some fears that Al Qaeda in Iraq could make a comeback in the western desert area where it had a strong foothold in 2004.

"It seems that Qaeda is back to resuming their terrorist activities freely in Ramadi specifically," said 50-year-old resident Jassim Ahmed.

"The situation requires alertness and carefulness or Qaeda will kill and terrorize our lives."

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ned.parker@latimes.com

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