Car bombs kill 11 as Iraq violence escalates

Car bombs killed at least 11 people in Baghdad on Tuesday as militants show increasing defiance to a major security operation in the capital.

A car rigged with explosives tore through a street in the Sadiyah district in southwestern Baghdad. At least six people were killed and 14 injured, police said.

The neighborhood is mixed between the majority Shiites and Sunnis, whose militant factions are blamed for many of the recent bombings and attacks.

Later, a suicide attacker drove a bomb-laden car into a vegetable market in the Shiite enclave of Dora in southern Baghdad. At least five people were killed and seven injured, police said.

The same market was targeted last month by three car bombs that killed 10 people.

More than 100 people have been killed in the Baghdad area since Sunday, when twin blasts in a market claimed 62 lives. U.S. and Iraqi forces last week launched a massive effort of house-to-house searches and checkpoints around Baghdad to try to cripple extremist factions.

Outside Baghdad, more than 100 people were hospitalized complaining of breathing problems after a truck carrying fuel tanks exploded north of Baghdad, police and medical officials said.

At least one person died in the blast near Taji, about 12 miles northwest of Baghdad, said Mohammad Abbas, an emergency room overseer at Kazmiyah Hospital.

People treated at Kazmiyah and other hospitals said they had trouble breathing and were vomiting, but the cause was not immediately known, he said. Among those hospitalized were dozens of children.

Chemical experts collected samples from the tanker and conducted air tests.

In a statement from the government Tuesday, three officers of the Shiite-dominated police force have been cleared of allegations that they raped a Sunni woman in their custody.

The statement by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office accused “certain parties” — presumably Sunni politicians — of fabricating the allegation to discredit the security forces during the ongoing Baghdad security operation.

The 20-year-old married woman said she was assaulted after police commandos took her into custody Sunday in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amil, accusing her of helping insurgents. She said she was taken to a police garrison and raped.

“It has been shown after medical examinations that the woman had not been subjected to any sexual attack whatsoever and that there are three outstanding arrest warrants against her issued by security agencies,” the government statement said.

“After the allegations have been proven to be false, the prime minister has ordered that the officers accused be rewarded,” it said without elaborating.

There was no comment from Sunni officials, who expressed outrage over the woman’s allegation and demanded swift punishment. Sunnis blame the police for many of the death squad killings of Sunnis over the past two years.

Meanwhile on Monday, insurgents staged a bold daylight assault against a U.S. combat post north of the capital — first striking with a suicide car bombing, then firing on soldiers pinned down in a former Iraqi police station. At least two soldiers were killed and 17 wounded, the military said.

Elsewhere, three U.S. soldiers were killed and two were wounded in a roadside bombing southwest of Baghdad on Monday, the U.S. military said. The military also announced the deaths of three Marines and one soldier since Saturday while conducting combat operations in the western province of Anbar.

Altogether, nine U.S. service members have been reported killed since the beginning of the weekend, six of them on Monday.

The head-on attack north of Baghdad was notable for both its tactics and target. Sunni insurgents have mostly used hit-and-run ambushes, roadside bombs or mortars on U.S. troops and stayed away from direct assaults on fortified military compounds to avoid U.S. firepower.

It also appeared to fit a pattern emerging among the suspected Sunni militants: trying to hit U.S. forces harder outside the capital rather than confront them on the streets during a massive American-led security operation.

But the sweeps have done little so far to ease the city’s pain.

Nearly 100 people have died in two days of blasts and sectarian bloodshed in and around Baghdad — most in areas dominated by the majority Shiite Muslims — and Iraqi officials who predicted swift results for the security operation have gone suddenly silent.

“A coordinated attack” is how the U.S. military statement described the raid on the outpost in Tarmiyah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad. It added that a suicide car bombing began the fight, but military authorities declined to give further details.

Witnesses and local authorities offered a fuller picture. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media and feared reprisals.

According to their accounts, at least one car — and possibly others — rigged with explosives was driven on a kamikaze mission at dawn into the concrete outer barriers around the Army base, a former Iraqi police station taken over by American troops late last year.

The blasts ignited stored fuel, they said. Soon, parts of the base were ablaze and under gunfire, but the size of the insurgent force was unclear. It also was not known whether the militants suffered casualties.

U.S. helicopters evacuated wounded soldiers from the compound — located in the center of the town of more than 20,000 residents — while the fight raged, according to the local accounts. By nightfall, U.S. troops had cordoned off streets around the post.

Mohammed al-Askari, spokesman for Iraq’s Defense Ministry, blamed the attack on a cell of al-Qaida in Iraq, which has claimed responsibility for many high-profile strikes.

“It’s their work,” he said.

Residents said the attack may have been prompted by fears that U.S. forces would begin house-to-house searches through the town, which is mostly Sunni but has not been considered a stronghold of militant activity.

The attack came on a day when a string of car bombings and other attacks claimed more than 40 civilian lives in Baghdad and elsewhere in sectarian violence.

In the capital, the bloodshed included at least 11 people killed in a mortar attack on a Shiite enclave and five killed when a suicide attacker detonated a bomb-rigged belt on a public bus headed for the mostly Shiite area of Karradah in central Baghdad, police reported.

On a highway about nine miles northwest of Baghdad, gunmen stopped a minivan and assassinated all 13 occupants, including an elderly woman and two boys, accusing them of opposing al-Qaida in Iraq, police and witnesses said.

In the volatile Sunni city of Ramadi, a suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint, killing two Iraqi policemen, Marine spokesman 2nd Lt. Roger Hollenbeck said. Moments later, another suicide car bomber struck a house near the checkpoint, wounding eight women and five children, Hollenbeck said.

Five people, including a 6-year-old boy, were killed by a roadside bomb in the northern city of Tal Afar, local official Najim Abdullah said.

On Sunday, 62 people were killed and more than 130 injured in twin car bombs at an open-air market in the capital’s mostly Shiite area of New Baghdad. It was the deadliest attack in Baghdad since U.S. and Iraqi forces launched widespread security sweeps last week.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an investigation into allegations by a Sunni woman that she was raped by three members of the Shiite-dominated police force after she was detained over the weekend. A top police official disputed the allegation.

The 20-year-old married woman claimed the police accused her of cooking for Sunni insurgents and took her to a police garrison.

“One of them put his hand on my mouth so no one outside the room could hear me,” she said in a video taped by AP Television News. “I told them `I did not know that an Iraqi could do this to another Iraqi.'”

She said a neighbor alerted U.S. soldiers about the arrest and they released her.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said he could not confirm any U.S. role in her release but that the military “will support the Iraqi government in its investigation.”

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press