Eight killed by Iraq car bombs

Two car bombs detonated in a Baghdad neighbourhood today, killing at least eight people.

Two car bombs detonated in a Baghdad neighbourhood today, killing at least eight people.

The attacks came as officials said the death toll from a giant suicide truck blast that killed at least 115 in a Shiite village north of the capital a day earlier could be much higher.

Today's twin explosions hit Baghdad's Karrada district, which has seen a relative calm for weeks amid a US security crackdown in the capital and on regions to the north and south, where al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents are believed to prepare their deadly car bombs.

Violence has eased somewhat in Baghdad recently, but militants have demonstrated they can still carry out car bomb strikes there - if at a lower rate than in the past - despite the American sweep.

Insurgents also appear to be moving further north to unleash their devastating attacks in less protected regions beyond the US offensive on Baghdad's northern doorstep - such as Armili, the Shiite Turkoman farming town hit in yesterday's truck bombing.

The toll from the attack was still not clear. Abdullah Jabara, deputy governor of Salahuddin province where the town is located, said the toll from the blast was 115 dead - nearly three-quarters of them women, children and elderly.

Today, Brig Abbas Mohmmed Amin, chief of police in the nearby city of Tuz Khurmato, put the toll at 150 dead, while Abbas al-Bayati, a Shiite Turkoman lawmaker, said 130 had been killed.

The count was difficult because of the town's remote location and because many of the dead had initially been buried under rubble that took hours to clear. The blast ripped through the town market during crowded morning shopping, destroying dozens of old mud-brick homes and shops.

Armili residents today buried about 70 of the dead. Mourners flowed into mosques and funeral tents set up in the town's main street, where black banners were hung on the walls with names of the dead.

Iraqi army and police forces were out in increased numbers in the streets and closed off entrances to the town to prevent attacks on the funerals - a frequent target of Sunni insurgents, Amin said.

Al-Bayati sharply criticised the security situation in the town, saying an Iraqi army battalion was moved out of the Armili region to Baghdad earlier this year to help in the crackdown in the capital.

He said Armili's police force had only 30 members, saying the Interior Ministry had approved an increase in the force only two days before the attack.

US forces are waging an offensive in the city of Baqouba, just north of Baghdad, to uproot al-Qaida militants and Sunni insurgents using the region lo launch attacks in the capital. But American commanders acknowledged that many extremists fled Baqouba before the sweep began in mid-June.

Al-Bayati said Sunni insurgents had fled to the Himrin region, a swathe of mountains southeast of Armili, between it and Baqouba.

Armili residents say regions like theirs are being left exposed and vulnerable. Tensions are constantly high between the town's Shiite Turkoman population and the Sunni Arabs who dominate the surrounding villages.

Iraqi security presence is scant in the remote region, far from Salahuddin's administrative centre and the eye of officials.

In Baghdad, the first car bomb exploded near a restaurant that was closed at the time. The blast destroyed stalls and soft-drink stands, killing two passers-by and wounding eight others, a police official said.

The area is near the offices of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq, the biggest Shiite party in parliament.

Five minutes later, the second car exploded about a mile away, hitting shops selling leather jackets and shoes. Six people were killed and seven wounded, said the official.

Also today, the military announced that an American soldier was killed in combat a day earlier in Salahuddin province. It did not provide details.

The US military may be forced to tolerate attacks further north as they focus on pacifying Baghdad and its surroundings, hoping that calm in the capital will give the government time to take key political steps.

Washington is pressing Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to pass measures to encourage Sunni Arabs to turn away from support of the insurgency to back the government.

Efforts to pass the measures, however, continue to be tied down in political feuding between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish parties in al-Maliki's fragile coalition.

At the same time, tensions have risen with the movement of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a former ally of the prime minister.

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