Car bombs hit Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Falluja

BAGHDAD Sun Aug 8, 2010 11:00am EDT

Police gather at the site of a bomb attack in the city of Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, August 8, 2010. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhdani

Police gather at the site of a bomb attack in the city of Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, August 8, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Ali al-Mashhdani

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A series of car bombs killed at least 12 people and wounded scores in the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Falluja on Sunday, while the prominent governor of troubled northern Nineveh province escaped an assassination attempt.

The blasts followed a series of explosions at a busy market in the center of Iraq's southern oil hub Basra late on Saturday that killed at least 43 and wounded 185, officials said.

Iraq has been in political limbo since an inconclusive March 7 election while Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish political factions try to sort out a coalition government. Politicians and security officials say insurgents appear to be trying to take advantage of the power vacuum.

Iraq's leaders have failed to agree a new government in five months since the vote. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited Massoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region, in Arbil on Sunday seeking a solution to the impasse.

In the northern city of Mosul, considered one of Iraq's most dangerous places in recent months, a roadside bomb exploded near a convoy transporting Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh province, from his home to work on Sunday, police said.

Nujaifi and his staff escaped injury in the initial blast, which took place on a road that is considered one of the safest in Mosul. But a second roadside bomb exploded when police responded to the scene, wounding three officers, police said.

In Falluja, about 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad, three car bomb blasts -- two of them targeting police patrols -- killed at least four people and wounded more than two dozen others, police and medical sources said.

One of the car bombs was left behind by gunmen who robbed a currency exchange merchant of $85,000 at his home, police said.

In Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of the capital, a car bomb exploded near a restaurant on a busy main street, killing at least eight people and wounding 50, police said.

In three other attacks in restive Mosul, nine people were wounded when a hand grenade was thrown into a crowd of civilians and four others were hurt when roadside bombs exploded near police and army patrols, police said.

CHARRED BODIES

In Basra, families tried to identify scores of charred bodies in the morgue of one of Iraq's biggest cities after firefighters spent until late Saturday battling fierce flames.

A Reuters witness said shops stretching 300 metres (yards) either side of the busy al-Ashaar market were burned out.

"The death toll of the three explosions that hit the market yesterday (Saturday) reached 43 people killed and 185 wounded," Riyadh Abdulameer, head of Basra's health department, told Reuters, adding this was not the final count.

Ali al-Maliki, the head of the security committee in the Basra council, said three bombs, two of them car bombs, exploded within a circle of about 200 metres around the market.

"The explosions carry the finger print of al Qaeda and the remainder of the Baathists," Maliki said, referring to the militant group and the party that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

A security source said one of the explosions was a bomb put under a generator supplying electricity to shops in the market.

Overall violence in Iraq has ebbed since the peak of sectarian warfare in 2006/07 but bombings and suicide attacks occur regularly across the OPEC oil producer. Iraq has the world's third-largest reserves and many fields are around Basra.

Nearly 400 civilians were killed in violence in July, almost double the June toll, Iraqi officials say. Tens of thousands of people died during the height of Iraq's sectarian slaughter in 2006-07.

(Reporting by Aref Mohammed in Basra and Waleed Ibrahim in Baghdad; writing by Jim Loney and Ulf Laessing; editing by David Stamp)

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