BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – Bombings and shootings across Iraq killed at least 52 people Tuesday, including 24 people in a bus destroyed by a roadside bomb. The attacks further damage the U.S.-backed government’s efforts to establish control over the country.
The bus, carrying many Iraqi soldiers, was struck in the northern industrial city of Beiji, killing everyone on board, said Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari.
Police earlier said that 20 Iraqi soldiers were killed on the bus. Al-Askari confirmed that many of the passengers were soldiers, but said he did not know how many. He said the bus was not being escorted by U.S. troops, as earlier believed.
Following the blast, a curfew was imposed in Beiji, 155 miles, north of Baghdad.
In the Karradah neighborhood of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded during morning rush hour near a bank, killing at least 14 people and injuring 37, said police Lt. Col. Abbas Mohammed Salman.
The target was well chosen because Iraqi security forces draw their salaries from the bank on the first day of every month. The blast set several cars on fire in the leafy Shiite neighborhood. Dismembered bodies were strewn on the sidewalk.
Abdul Hassan Mohammed, a 62-year-old teacher, said he was walking to the bank to draw his pension when the bomb exploded. “A big explosion slammed me 4 meters (12 feet) into a wall. My friends took me to one of their stores, gave me water and asked me to relax … I didn’t get my pension,” he told The Associated Press.
Karradah has seen increasing violence in the sectarian fighting between Shiites and Sunnis in recent months. Last Thursday, rockets and mortars rained down in the neighborhood, collapsing an apartment house, shattering shops and killing 31 people. A car bomb also exploded at the same time.
Elsewhere, a car bomb targeting a police patrol killed one policeman and six civilians in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, said an official of a joint Iraqi-U.S. security force center. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details.
A roadside bomb narrowly missed a car belonging to the Ministry of Electricity, killing one civilian and wounding another in eastern Baghdad, police said. Gunmen in two cars raided a mosque west of Baghdad, killing a cleric and his brother.
A suicide attack was foiled when soldiers fired at a car trying to slam into an army convoy in Baghdad. The car exploded, killing the driver but nobody else, police said.
And two insurgents were killed when a roadside bomb they were planting on a highway detonated prematurely in Karma, 25 miles west of Baghdad, police said. In the northern town of Mosul, a drive-by shooting killed one civilian.
On Monday, gunmen dressed in military fatigues burst into the offices of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and a nearby mobile phone company, seizing 26 people in a daylight raid in a mostly Shiite area of the capital. The same day, a millionaire businessman and his two sons were abducted from their car in Baghdad.
All the victims were believed to be Iraqis. The Iraqi-American Chamber is an independent organization not affiliated with the U.S. government, and maintains branches throughout Iraq and in Amman, Jordan.
The Interior Ministry denied that the kidnappers were police — despite the uniforms — and blamed the attack on “terrorists,” Iraqi state television reported.
U.S. officials estimate an average of 30-40 people are kidnapped each day in Iraq, although the real figure may be higher because few families contact the police. Security officials believe most of the ransoms end up in the hands of insurgent and militia groups.
Many abductions are believed to be tied to the ongoing violence between Sunni and Shiite extremists who target civilians of the rival Muslim communities.
On Monday, the government said that since February, 30,359 families — or about 182,000 people — had fled their homes due to sectarian violence and intimidation. That represented an increase of about 20,000 people from the number reported July 20.