MOSUL, Iraq, (Reuters) – A car bomb wounded 10 people in Mosul on Monday, and gunmen shot and wounded a traffic policeman in further violence in the northern Iraqi city after U.S. troops withdrew from urban centres.
Elsewhere in Iraq, the handover of security in cities and towns to local forces on June 30 was followed by a week of relative, and unexpected, calm, an Interior Ministry official said.
“It was a wonderful scene, five pure (violence-free) days,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf.
Despite sporadic violence throughout Iraq that has killed at least 10 people since July 1, Khalaf said Iraqi police and troops had prevented three attempted attacks by insurgents in the days since the U.S. pullback.
But Mosul has maintained its status as Iraq’s most violent city.
Grenade attacks on Sunday killed a policeman and wounded many other people in what seemed like an attempt by insurgents to take advantage of the U.S. absence to ramp up violence in their last urban holdout.
U.S. forces pulled out Iraq’s towns and cities on June 30, the first step in a bilateral security pact that requires the 130,000 troops currently in Iraq to leave before 2012.
Iraqi officials have lauded the milestone as a victory over a foreign occupation.
U.S. commanders had considered retaining a presence inside Mosul to beat back insurgent groups, including Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, who still operate there after being kicked out of former strongholds in Baghdad and western Iraq. But Iraqi authorities, keen to show the public they are swapping years of U.S. military occupation since the 2003 invasion for sovereignty, rejected that idea.
Many Iraqis doubt whether their own fledgling forces, which have been rebuilt from scratch since the U.S. officials who ran Iraq in 2003 disbanded them, are ready to pacify the country.
The sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006/7 has ebbed, but militants still carry out frequent attacks.
Khalaf said Iraq was not letting down its guard. “All our forces are out there and on alert. They carried out their roles and surprised everybody (with their success),” he said. “They (the insurgents) will possibly be able to succeed in some operations. I have never claimed they will stop their attacks. They will continue.”