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August 1, 2009

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29 killed as bombs hit Iraq mosques

Bombs exploded near five Shiite mosques in Baghdad, killing at least 29 people, in an apparent coordinated attack that targeted worshippers leaving Friday prayers, according to Iraqi police and hospital officials.

The bombings shattered a period of relative calm in the Iraqi capital, raising to at least 306 Iraqis killed in July in what has been one of the least deadly months in Iraq for both Iraqi civilians and United States troops since the war began.

Seven American troops have been killed -- the lowest monthly total since the war started in March 2003 -- according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Yesterday's attacks also underscore concerns about the abilities of Iraqi forces to maintain security gains now that US troops have withdrawn from major urban areas. Some Sunni insurgents still seek to re-ignite sectarian violence with the majority Shiites and reverse Iraq's security gains in the past two years.

The deadliest attack yesterday came when a car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Shaab, killing at least 24 people and wounding 17 others, said two Iraqi police officials and a medical official.

About the same time, almost simultaneous explosions struck near the al-Rasoul Mosque by the Diyala Bridge, in southern Baghdad, killing four worshippers and wounding 17 others, the two police officials said.

A roadside bomb exploded near al-Hakim Mosque in Kamaliyah, eastern Baghdad, wounding six worshippers.

Bombs exploded near Imam al-Sadiq Mosque in the religiously mixed neighborhood of Ilam in southwestern Baghdad, wounding four worshippers, and near the al-Sadrain Mosque in the Zafaraniyah area of southeastern Baghdad, killing one and wounding seven worshippers.

US commanders say security gains are fragile and reversible, and the Iraqi government needs years of further assistance.

US commanders have also warned attacks could escalate ahead of national elections next year.

The US has about 130,000 forces in Iraq, with plans calling for most combat forces to remain in the country until after the January 16 vote.

Under a time line set by US President Barack Obama, all combat troops will withdraw from Iraq by August 2010.

Questions about the Iraqi security forces were heightened earlier in the week, when they clashed violently with residents of a camp north of Baghdad for exiled Iranians.

Iraqi officials confirm at least seven people were killed and spokesmen for the exiles say hundreds were injured.

A US military medical team yesterday went to Camp Ashraf and evacuated wounded residents.


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