BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Blasts at Baghdad’s police academy and in the northern city of Mosul killed 30 people and wounded dozens more on Monday, hours after a roadside bomb wounded a senior Iraqi official, police said.
Violence has fallen sharply over the past year as successive security crackdowns dealt insurgent groups a heavy blow, but officials say militants are now concentrating their efforts on attention-grabbing attacks ahead of elections next year.
The attacks were likely aimed at reigniting sectarian bloodshed between minority Sunni Arabs who dominated Iraq under ex-dictator Saddam Hussein and Shi’ites who are now in control.
People were queuing at the back entrance of the police academy in east Baghdad to enroll when a car bomb exploded, followed minutes later by a suicide bomb attack, police said.
Fifteen Iraqi policemen or police recruits were killed and 45 other people were wounded, some of them police, the U.S. military said. It said the suicide bomber’s vest was packed with ball bearings.
The attacks left a crater near the academy, and wallets containing identification cards required for enrolment lay scattered on the road, Reuters television footage showed.
Shortly after the Baghdad attacks, police said a suicide car bomber and a car bomb killed 15 people and wounded 37 in Mosul, which officials say is the last holdout for al Qaeda and other insurgents who once controlled swathes of Iraq.
The attack in Mosul targeted an Iraqi police and U.S. military joint patrol, police said. The U.S. military said no U.S. troops were casualties of the attack. Mosul’s main hospital said it had received 15 bodies.
Monday’s blasts came as Iraq tries to prepare its security forces to take over responsibility from U.S. troops, who will have to withdraw from towns by mid-2009 and leave Iraq by end-2011, under a pact passed by parliament on Thursday.
The Iraqi government is also in the process of taking responsibility for largely Sunni neighborhood patrolmen — who number some 100,000 across Iraq — from the U.S. military, while getting ready for provincial elections on January 31.
Near the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, bitterly contested by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, police said they had found a grave containing 12 unidentified bodies. Some had been burned and some had bullet wounds.
Earlier on Monday, Major-General Mudhar al-Mawla, an official dealing with the transfer of patrolmen to government control, was targeted by a roadside bomb as his convoy left his home in north Baghdad’s Sulaikh district. The bomb killed three people and wounded 13 others, police said.
Mawla was also seriously wounded, they said.
Iraqi government data showed 296 Iraqis died violent deaths in November, up from 238 in October. Only six U.S. troops were killed, the lowest monthly toll since they invaded Iraq in 2003.
Writing by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Michael Christie