World News

Bombs kill 14 in Iraq, dozens wounded

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Bombs killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens in northern and western Iraq on Wednesday, but the Iraqi military said overall attacks across the country were down 85 percent from a year ago.

Two blasts in quick succession in Falluja, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, killed six people and wounded 18, police said.

One hit a police unit guarding a bank, they said. The second went off minutes later when a police convoy came to evacuate casualties. Four policemen were among the dead.

Hours later, a suicide car bomber killed eight civilians and wounded 26 people in the northern city of Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, police said.

The attack targeted the convoy of Major-General Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, the province’s army commander, said a security spokesman in the city.

Neither U.S. nor Iraqi security officials said who was behind the attacks, but Sunni Islamist al Qaeda is often blamed for bombings in Anbar and Mosul.

The U.S. military says violence in Iraq has dropped to a four-year low.

Major-General Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for Iraqi forces in Baghdad, said attacks across the country had fallen 85 percent in the past year. He said there were an average of 25 attacks a day in June compared to 160 daily a year ago.

Moussawi also warned clerics not to allow weapons to be stored in mosques, a tactic some militants use partly because U.S. forces are reluctant to enter the places of worship.

“It is totally prohibited ... for mosques to allow gangs and the militias to use ... them for storing weapons or explosives,” he told a news conference in Baghdad.

“The leader of the mosque should report (this) to the authorities. If he doesn’t, he is a partner in the crime.”

Iraqi forces backed by U.S. troops and aircraft have launched a series of raids across the country this year aimed at wresting control of areas once in the hands of Shi’ite militias or Sunni Arab insurgents.

Those operations have targeted Shi’ite militants in Baghdad, Basra and Maysan as well as Sunni Islamist al Qaeda in the north. U.S. and Iraqi forces frequently report large seizures of weapons in their operations.