BAGHDAD,(Reuters) – A car bomb and several mortars ripped through central Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 25 people and wounding 45 others, police sources said.
The car bomb, in the shopping district of Karrada, heavily damaged a building, raising fears the death toll could rise, said Ministry of Interior sources. The mortars landed nearby.
Although there have been bombings in Karrada before, the mostly Shi’ite area has been one of the few relatively stable districts of the capital.
U.S. and Iraqi forces have been focusing their efforts on stabilising Baghdad, racked by daily attacks from car bombs, suicide bombers and kidnappers.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told the U.S. Congress on Wednesday that Iraq would “be the grave of terrorism and terrorists”.
But the violence has been unrelenting and Thursday’s blasts left a familiar scene of chaos in the Iraqi capital.
Inside a tailor shop destroyed by the bomb, people tried to pull a young man from beneath a collapsed ceiling. A boy of about 10 with a bloodied head lay on the floor a few feet away.
“My sister is there. My sister is there,” one woman said to a man holding her hand. “She is probably alright,” he said.
The U.S. military may boost its force in Iraq by delaying the scheduled departure of some troops involved in routine rotations, officials said in Washington on Wednesday.
As has been done periodically during the three-year-old war, the military would temporarily increase the size of the force by extending the overlap between arriving units and those leaving.
One defence official said the idea would be to create “a momentary overlap of at least a brigade” — meaning roughly 3,500 troops.
Another official said the increase might be “from the low 3,000s to the high 4,000s.”
In his address to congress, Maliki depicted Iraq as central to the war on terrorism, but the Shi’ite Islamist avoided Iraq’s growing sectarian killing that has raised fears of all-out civil war.
An average of 100 people a day have died in attacks between factions in the past few weeks.
Instead, he spoke of the past, thanking the United States for toppling Saddam Hussein, whose loyalists are leading the raging insurgency against Maliki’s government.
Several Democrats said he glossed over the killing between Shi’ites and Sunnis that they see as the main threat in Iraq and as slowing the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said it was “hard to find optimism” in the fact most of the violence “is perpetrated by Iraqis against Iraqis.” She said Maliki “seemed to be in denial” of the situation.
Tough-talking Maliki vowed to crush the Sunni Arab insurgency and tackle sectarian violence when he was sworn in two months ago.
But like his predecessors, he has failed to ease bloodshed, with militias tied to political parties, including some in his ruling Shi’ite Alliance, acting with impunity and drawing accusations from Sunnis they run death squads.