BAGHDAD, (AP) – A roadside bomb exploded next to a bus carrying Iraqi high school students to their final exams on Monday, police said, the deadliest in a series of blasts that killed five people in Baghdad.
The attacks came two days after the country’s deadliest attack this year — a truck bombing that killed at least 75 people in northern Iraq.
Violence has been escalating ahead of a June 30 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from major cities and urban areas in Iraq. Officials have warned they expect militants to step up attacks around that deadline.
Another blast, caused by a car bomb, occurred in the Karradah district of the Iraqi capital, on the east side of the Tigris River. It took place on a road leading to a checkpoint that controls access to a bridge into the Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and U.S. Embassy. The explosion killed two people and wounded 11 others, according to police.
A roadside bomb also targeted a police patrol in a commercial area of eastern Baghdad’s Ur district, wounding nine people, police said.
The attack on the minibus with the students took place after 8 a.m. in the Habibiyah area in Baghdad’s former militia stronghold of Sadr City.
Police and hospital officials said three people were killed and 13 wounded, including three of the high school students. The bus was peppered with shrapnel and the students blood-soaked books covered the floor of the vehicle.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.
In the northern Iraq, rescue crews were searching for at least 12 people still missing in a massive explosion Saturday near the ethnically tense city of Kirkuk that flattened a Shiite mosque and dozens of mud-brick houses around it.
Iraqi police have blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq for the attack, saying it was part of an insurgent campaign to destabilize the country and undermine confidence in the government.
Americans will remain ready to help, as they were in the aftermath of Saturday’s bombing, but many Iraqis fear their departure after two years of a steady urban presence will prove deadly.
Another bomb exploded Sunday evening in a cafe in a Shiite enclave in a mainly Sunni area of southern Baghdad, killing at least two civilians and wounding 13, police said.