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Six bombs hit Shiite neighborhoods

SIX bombs rocked Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad yesterday, killing 36 people and wounding more than 110 others.

It was a dramatic escalation of violence as the June 30 deadline approaches for a withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq's cities.

Angry survivors hurled stones at Iraqi soldiers at the site of one of the blasts in Sadr City after troops fired shots in the air to disperse crowds of people trying to care for the injured, witnesses said.

No group claimed responsibility but a US military spokesman said the attacks appeared to be a coordinated assault by al-Qaida, saying the nature of the targets was consistent with past attacks.

The deadliest blast occurred in a market in western Baghdad where two car bombs exploded almost simultaneously, killing 12 people and wounding 32 others, an Iraqi police official said.

Burned hulks of cars and twisted metal were scattered across the marketplace as Iraqi soldiers and police officers surrounded the bombing site, driving off onlookers and journalists.

The day's violence started with a car bomb at 7:30am in the center of the capital that killed at least six people and wounded 17.

Later, a bomb in a parked car exploded at a market in the Shiite slum of Sadr City, killing 12 people, including three women and four children, and wounding at least 37 others. Within minutes, another bomb went off at another eastern Baghdad market, killing three more people and wounding 15.

A roadside bomb targeting a three-vehicle police convoy carrying an Interior Ministry official in eastern Baghdad killed three people, including two of the official's guards, and wounded 12 others.

Anger against Iraqi security forces boiled up after the blast in Sadr City, scene of heavy fighting last year between US-Iraqi forces and militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Adnan al-Sudani, 37, said he and others rushed to the scene.

"We saw several people dead and some were burned. We began to lift them along with the wounded into civilian cars to take them to nearby hospitals," he said. "When Iraqi army forces arrived, they began firing randomly on people to disperse them. But angry people began to throw stones at them."

US officials say violence has fallen by 90 percent since the high point in 2007, but a recent increase in attacks has raised concern that extremists may be regrouping.

"The nature of the attacks and targets are consistent with past al-Qaida attacks in Iraq," said a US spokesman. "We see this as a coordinated attack by terrorists against predominantly Shiah targets that they gauge as vulnerable to instigate sectarian violence."

Also yesterday, the US military announced that an American soldier had been killed in action the day before in Diyala province, where insurgents remain active.

It was the first combat death suffered by US forces since March 16, when a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.


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