Car bombs hit Basra, Baghdad as more violence shakes Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP)- A suicide car bomber Tuesday attacked a police headquarters in Basra, killing at least three policemen, wounding 20 other people and raising fears about security in the oil-rich southern city now that British forces have withdrawn.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Jalil Khalaf, Basra’s police chief, said the suicide bomber’s legs were found tied to the steering wheel. Khalaf blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq for the attack, even though the movement was believed to have virtually no presence in the Basra area.

The attack occurred about 8:00am when the driver, wearing a traditional Arab robe and headgear, tried to steer his explosives-laden sedan into the downtown police headquarters building but was blocked by concrete barriers, Khalaf said.

The blast damaged nearby buildings and set several parked cars ablaze, witnesses reported.

Fears about security in Basra have been mounting since the British army left its last position within the city on September 2 and redeployed to the municipal airport, about 20 kilometres to the north.

For more than two years, Basra, Iraq’s second largest city and headquarters of the country’s vast southern oil fields, has been racked by violence from rival Shiite militias that have infiltrated police and government ranks.

Several biggest militias are associated with major Shiite political parties. But suicide attacks – the hallmark of Sunni Islamists – are rare in the mostly Shiite city.

In Baghdad, a pair of car bombs exploded near simultaneously Tuesday morning near a line of elderly people waiting to get their monthly pensions from a bank in the eastern part of the city. Six people, mostly pensioners, were killed, police said. A total of at least 15 people were killed or found dead Tuesday in the Iraqi capital – apparent victims of political or sectarian violence, according to police reports. Elsewhere, a US soldier was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb north of the capital in Diyala province, the US command said. No further details were released.

The death raised to at least 3,799 the number of US military members who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In Diyala, provincial leaders pledged to push ahead with efforts to bring Shiites and Sunnis together despite a devastating suicide attack that killed at least 24 people at a sectarian unity meeting. The dead included the police chief of the provincial capital of Baqouba. At least 37 people were wounded, US and Iraqi officials said.

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