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Blasts rock Baghdad before reconciliation talks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Bomb blasts killed 15 people in Baghdad on Wednesday and suicide bombers attacked an Iraqi army base, overshadowing preparations for a conference intended to promote national reconciliation.

Gunmen also stormed a house in a village south of Baghdad, killing all nine members of a Shi’ite family — four men, two women and three children, police said.

In the worst blast, a car bomb exploded near a bus shelter and a crowd of Shi’ite day labourers in a busy street in eastern Baghdad, killing 10 people and wounding 25, the police said.

Sectarian violence between once-dominant minority Sunnis and majority Shi’ites is killing more than 120 people a day, United Nations officials say. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes and fears of all-out civil war are rising.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government, racked by sectarian tensions that have paralysed decision-making, has struggled to rein in violence blamed on Sunni Islamist insurgent groups such as al Qaeda and Shi’ite militias.

Maliki is to host a national reconciliation conference in Baghdad on Saturday which aims to bring together Kurdish, Sunni, Shi’ite and secular political groups. But many Iraqis fear the violence may be too far gone to be stopped.

Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the deputy U.S. commander in Iraq, reiterated on Monday that war could not be won by military might alone and said progress was also needed on the political and economic fronts to regain Iraqis’ confidence.

Maliki has accused Iraqi political leaders of fuelling the violence with their reluctance to compromise.

Wednesday’s violence included two car bombs which exploded simultaneously in the religiously mixed New Baghdad district, killing five people and wounding 10, an Interior Ministry official said.

Police said three roadside bombs and a car bomb exploded near the main Yarmouk hospital in western Baghdad, wounding two people.

North of the capital, two suicide bombers struck an Iraqi army base in the town of Riyadh, some 60 km (40 miles) south of the volatile oil city of Kirkuk, killing seven soldiers and wounding 15, the police added.

Police General Torhan Abdul Rahman said the first bomber detonated his vehicle after ramming the gate of the base. The second bomber managed to enter the base.

Iraqi soldiers have been frequent targets of Sunni insurgents fighting U.S. forces and the Shi’ite-led government, although attacks on bases are relatively unusual.

A bipartisan high-level panel, the Iraq Study Group, has recommended that President George W. Bush accelerate the training of Iraq’s security forces to pave the way for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops in 2008.

The top U.S. generals in Iraq briefed Bush on Monday as part of a series of meetings he is holding this week to discuss the future of Iraq after giving a largely cool reception to the panel’s recommendations for changing course in the war, which is hugely unpopular among Americans.

The White House said Bush would delay announcing a new Iraq strategy until the new year.