Bombs, attacks hit Iraqi cities, at least 50 dead

BAGHDAD,  (Reuters) – Suicide attackers and car bombs  struck cities across Iraq yesterday, killing at least 50 people  and wounding scores more in a rash of apparently coordinated  assaults carried out by affiliates of al Qaeda, authorities  said.

In the worst attack, a roadside bomb followed by a car bomb  targeting police killed at least 37 people in Kut, a mainly  Shi’ite Muslim city 150 km (95 miles) southeast of the capital  Baghdad, police and health officials said.

Dhiyauddin Jalil, a director of local provincial health  department, said more than 68 people were wounded in the Kut  blasts and doctors in the city’s main hospital said they were  struggling to treat casualties, many with severe burns.

“These attacks… are trying to influence the security  situation and undermine confidence in the security forces,” said  Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Baghdad  security operations, blaming al Qaeda-linked groups.

Violence in Iraq has subsided dramatically since the height  of sectarian slaughter in 2006-07. But militants are  increasingly testing local security forces as the last American  troops prepare to withdraw by an end-of-year deadline.

Kut had been relatively quiet since August last year when a  suicide bomber killed 30 policemen and destroyed a police  station as the U.S. military ended combat operations in Iraq.

Dozens more were killed or wounded on Monday in bombings and  attacks in other cities, puncturing the relative calm of the  Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

At least eight people were killed and 14 wounded when a  suicide car bomber attacked a municipality building in Khan Bani  Saad, about 30 km (20 miles) northeast of Baghdad, in the  province of Diyala, two police sources said yesterday.

Two suicide bombers attacked an Iraqi counter-terrorism unit  in Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad, killing at least  two policemen and wounding six in a failed attempt to free al  Qaeda prisoners, a police official said.

One attacker detonated his suicide vest hoping to kill a  high-ranking counter-terrorism officer, and the other was shot  dead during the attack, said Captain Jassim al-Jibouri, an  officer with the Tikrit counter terrorism unit.

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