Series of attacks kill 25 in Iraq

BAGHDAD: A series of attacks targeting both Iraqi security forces and civilians killed 25 people on Monday, in a second day of deadly violence ahead of the first anniversary of the withdrawal of US forces.

The violence comes after a string of attacks killed 19 people and wounded 77 on Sunday. Monday was the deadliest day in Iraq since November 29, when 50 people were killed.

US military forces completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18 last year, ending a nearly nine-year war that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Violence in Iraq is down significantly from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but while Iraqi forces have held their own since the US departure, insurgent groups still pose a significant threat, and attacks occur almost daily.

Gunmen attacked a police checkpoint on the highway west of Tikrit, killing one policeman and wounding three, a police lieutenant colonel said.

A police patrol chased the gunmen, who abandoned their car and then detonated explosives in it, killing four more police and wounding two, the officer said. A doctor confirmed the toll.

In the village of Al-Buslaibi, north of Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting an army patrol killed three soldiers, the army and police said.

And gunmen attacked an army checkpoint in the north Iraqi city of Mosul, killing one soldier.

A car bomb in Khaznah, a village near Mosul populated by the small Shabak minority, killed seven people and wounded 12, while two car bombs near a Shia place of worship killed five and wounded 26 in the northern flashpoint town of Tuz Khurmatu, security and medical sources said.

Three roadside bombs exploded near Baquba, north of Baghdad, killing one person and wounding four others, while two car bombs in the city wounded six people, police and medics said.

A salvo of 10 mortar rounds slammed into the town of Rutba in Anbar province, killing two and wounding nine, officials said, and a car bomb near Dujail north of Baghdad killed one Iraqi and wounded at least 10 Iranian pilgrims.

Iraqi security forces have been able to hold violence in check, with the number of people killed in the first 11 months of 2012 fewer than in the same period the year before, according to government figures.

“The security situation has remained largely unchanged, despite the withdrawal of American troops. This in itself is a remarkable achievement,” said Joost Hiltermann, deputy director of the International Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa programme.

But insurgent groups remain a threat, carrying out attacks in Iraq that kill well over 100 people a month on average and wound many more.

“The withdrawal of US forces meant that training became reduced, intelligence gathering became limited and quick reaction forces were no longer as well resourced or able to reach flashpoints at short notice,” said John Drake, an analyst with AKE group.

“However, counter-insurgency operations and arrests didn’t decline,” Drake said, though “the Iraqi military still has a long way to go in terms of building capabilities, and they remain under-resourced and regularly targeted.” AGENCIES

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