Suicide bombings have killed nearly 50 people and wounded dozens in two Iraqi villages, including a large truck bombing today that ripped through an outdoor market and buried victims in rubble, officials said.
The blasts suggested that Sunni militants are regrouping to launch suicide explosions – often against Shiites – in regions further away from Baghdad.
Violence continued in Baghdad, though at a lower level. A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed vehicle by an Iraqi army patrol in the capital’s eastern Zayouna district, and there were reports of casualties, but the Iraqi government could not immediately confirm the number.
The US military also reported today that six American service members were killed in fighting in Baghdad and western Anbar province over two days, reflecting the increased US death toll that has come with the new offensives.
A British soldier was killed in fighting with Shiite militias overnight in the southern city of Basra.
Today’s truck bombing ripped through a market in the village of Armili north of Baghdad at around 8.30 am local time, destroying mud-brick homes and setting cars on fire.
Victims had to be transported in farmers’ pickup trucks to the nearest health facility, in Tuz Khormato, 27 miles to the north, said Capt Soran Ali of the Tuz Khormato police.
Police said one man fled the truck before it detonated with another man still inside.
Saleh Ali, a medic at Tuz Khormato hospital, said 25 dead and 100 wounded were brought to the facility. Residents of the village said more victims remained trapped under destroyed houses and shops, and doctors said many of the wounded were in critical condition, meaning the toll could rise.
“Some are still under the rubble with no one to help them. There are no ambulances to evacuate the victims,” said Haitham Hadad, a resident who evacuated his wounded cousin in his car to Tuz Khormato hospital.
Dozens of weeping relatives of victims crowded the hospital, searching for loved ones.
At the market, “I saw destruction everywhere, dozens of cars destroyed, about 15 shops and many houses, even some more than 700 yards away,” said Haitham Yalman, whose daughter and sister were wounded.
The village, 100 miles north of Baghdad is mainly made up of Shiite Turkomen, an ethnic minority that is spread across north-central Iraq, though most of its members are Sunni Muslim.
The night before, a suicide bomber detonated a boobytrapped car at a funeral being held in the Shiite Kurdish village of Zargosh, in the Sadiya region of Diyala province about 75 miles north-east of Baghdad, police said.
The blast killed 22 people and wounded 17 others, said the head of Diyala provincial council, Ibrahim Bajilan, and a police official in the provincial capital of Baqouba.
The new back-to-back bombings could mean the militants have moved a step away from the capital, but still are able to unleash attacks in a region where Iraqi and American security forces are far lighter.
Armili, the village hit Saturday morning, is on the edge of Salahuddin province, near the border with Diyala.
In the far south of Iraq, British troops came under heavy attack by militants in Basra, killing one soldier and wounding three, the British military said today.
The troops were hit by bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms during an arrest operation in the city before dawn, the military said in a statement. Coalition aircraft destroyed roadside bombs as the British soldiers were extracted from the city, it said.
A soldier from the 4th Battalion, The Rifles, also died at the Basra Palace base in the centre of the city yesterday afternoon, in a non-combatant accident.
Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, 340 miles south-east of Baghdad. British bases come under frequent mortar attacks from Shiite militias.
The US currently has about 155,000 troops in Iraq.