String Of Bombings Rock Baghdad, Killing 18

Fifteen bombs exploded Sunday within hours of one another in Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and wounding 80, Iraqi authorities said.

String Of Bombings Rock Baghdad, Killing 18

Fifteen bombs exploded Sunday within hours of one another in Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and wounding 80, Iraqi authorities said.

The bombings came the same day Britain wrapped up its military mission in Iraq, leaving a predominantly American military presence that is expected to disappear by the end of the year under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that requires U.S. troops to withdraw from the country.

The blasts Sunday were the latest in a spate in recent weeks that have raised concerns about Iraq's ability to protect itself. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he plans to meet with Iraqi political leaders this month to discuss whether to request U.S. troops remain in Iraq beyond the Jan. 1, 2012, withdrawal deadline.

Sunday's blasts were a mix of car bombs and roadside bombs that appeared to be targets of opportunity, striking Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods as well as Iraqi and U.S. security forces.

The bombings began early with a car bomb and four roadside bombs exploding in quick succession near the federal police headquarters in southwest Baghdad, killing two and wounding 15 others, two Interior Ministry officials said.

That was followed by a car bomb that targeted the convoy of an Interior Ministry official in eastern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding five others, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

A U.S. convoy on the outskirts of Baghdad, near Taji, was targeted by a car bomb, the officials said. When Iraqi police and soldiers arrived to investigate the blast, a suicide bomber standing blew himself up and killed 12 people -- including members of the Iraqi security forces -- and wounded 23, officials said.

Two roadside bombs struck near a hospital and an outdoor market in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, killing two and wounding 12, while an explosion wounded three in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of al-Saydiya, the two officials said.

Two more roadside bombs struck an Iraqi police patrol in central Baghdad, killing one and wounding 12, the officials said.

At least eight more people were wounded in three separate blasts in Baghdad, the officials said.

The U.N. office in Iraq has expressed concern over recent violence targeting government and security officials. Al-Maliki has said al Qaeda and other terrorists are behind the killings but also has blamed political movements and security guards. He promised to pursue the attackers.

The attacks came as Britain withdrew its remaining troops, primarily members of the Royal Navy, from Iraq. At the height of the war, Britain had deployed about 46,000 troops to Iraq as part of then President George Bush called the "Coalition of the Willing."

Britain will continue to support the NATO training mission in Iraq, according to Britain's Defence Ministry.

A small military contingent will remain in Baghdad to protect personnel at the British Embassy.

In Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, where much of the poor popuation is loyal to Shiite anti-American firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, some residents blamed the United States.

"I blame the occupier forces," said resident Kamel al-Fartossi, a truck driver, referring to U.S. troops. "The want to prove that Iraq is still an unstable country so they can stay longer."

Mohammed Abdul Hussein, a businessman, made a similar claim. "The Americans are behind today's attacks. They are doing this because they don't want to leave in six months," he said, as people around him started shouting, "No, no, America."

Still other, such as 71-year-old Abbass Muhssein, pointed to "al Qaeda and the Baathists" as the culprits behind Sunday's attacks. As people whispered in his ears that he should blame America, Muhssein refused. "No not the Americans. Why should I lie?" he said. The Iraqi army is not able to protect the country, he said. "We don't know what will happen after they (U.S troops) leave Iraq."

Um Ali , 53 years old, a mother of six and street vendor who sells vegetables, said this about Sunday's death and destruction: "What can we do? This is our destiny."