BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi police tightened their grip on Baghdad on Saturday, a day after 10 suicide car bombings scarred the city, but insurgents struck again in southeast Iraq, killing three British soldiers.
Tense officers manned extra police checkpoints throughout the capital, Reuters journalists and drivers reported, after a series of blasts Al Qaeda described as an offensive to seize control of the city.
The campaign of attacks from Friday morning until after dark, struck U.S. and Iraqi military and police targets at all points of the compass.
Police said at least 25 people were killed, mostly Iraqi troops, and more than 100 wounded, even though streets were mostly quiet for the Muslim week”s holy day.
Al Qaeda”s Iraq wing, led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, boasted that the attacks had given it control of the capital, but there was no sign of militants in the streets.
"Through the day and the night, Baghdad rang with the music of the mujahideen”s bullets and the prayers of the martyrs," it said in an Internet statement.
"Our mujahideen now control the streets," it said. "Our sheikh Abu Musab has urged us to intensify our attacks until America is defeated … and we will continue in our jihad."
In Amara in southeast Iraq, three British soldiers were killed in what the Ministry of Defence in London said was a suspected roadside bomb.
Friday”s 10 suicide car bombs followed a thwarted triple suicide attack at a gate to Baghdad”s fortified Green Zone government compound on Thursday. A suicide car bomb on Wednesday near a U.S. patrol killed 27 people, mostly Iraqi children.
Suicide bombs, orchestrated by groups of mainly foreigners like Zarqawi”s, have increased sharply since the Shi”ite and Kurdish led government took power in April.
U.S. generals have said the situation is improving. But Friday”s 10 bombs in a day in Baghdad compares with just six countrywide for the entire previous week, a figure a U.S. spokesman had said was the lowest in 11 weeks.
In Samarra, in the central Sunni heartland, locals reported that U.S. troops and Iraqi police had imposed a curfew, ordering residents to stay in their homes after two civilians were killed by gunmen outside a U.S. base.
On the diplomatic front, Iraqi”s Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari was due to arrive in Iran for the first visit in decades by a leader of Iraq to its Shi”ite neighbour and former mortal foe.
Jaafari”s trip is seen as a historic opportunity to mend ties with a country that Iraq fought for a decade under Saddam Hussein. But too quick a rapprochement risks alienating both the United States and Iraq”s Sunni Arabs, who are suspicious of Jaafari”s Shi”ite-led government”s ties to Shi”ite Iran.