BAGHDAD (Reuters) -Four separate roadside bomb attacks killed at least 19 people in Baghdad on Tuesday, police sources said, as U.S. troops made new efforts to try to rid the capital of powerful militias and defeat insurgents.
The deadliest bombing killed at least 10 people and wounded 69 in the al-Shorja market in central Baghdad.
Earlier, two blasts targeting police and another aimed at one of Baghdad’s busiest bus stations killed a total of nine people, said the police sources. Eight people were wounded in those attacks.
The United States has boosted its troop levels in the Iraqi capital to try to stop insurgent and sectarian violence, which has raised fears of full-blown civil war, from escalating.
But the campaign is likely to hit political minefields.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government has vowed to confront militias blamed for fanning tensions, but must tread carefully as some of the armed groups have close ties to political parties, including ones in his own ruling Alliance.
The Shi’ite Islamist spoke up against his American allies after U.S. and Iraqi forces fought Shi’ite militiamen in Baghdad during a raid on a suspected death squad on Monday.
“This operation is rejected and it was conducted without the agreement of the government, and it does not match the current national reconciliation environment in the country,” Maliki told al-Iraqiya state television on Monday night.
Police sources said two people were killed and 18 wounded in the operation in Sadr City, a stronghold of radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose supporters are part of Maliki’s ruling coalition.
The U.S. military said it backed up Iraqi forces in a raid to detain “individuals involved in punishment and torture cell activities.” One U.S. soldier was hurt.
The new campaign is an admission that a security crackdown in the capital ordered by the government and involving thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces has failed.
The violence is claiming around 100 lives every day and sapping confidence in Iraq’s new Shi’ite-led government.
In further lawlessness, gunmen stormed a bank in Baghdad’s northern Adhamiya district and killed at least five people before walking away with only the equivalent of $4,000.
Maliki has presented Iraqis with a 24-point reconciliation plan that is long on promises and short on details on how he intends to ease attacks like Tuesday’s roadside bombings.
In an all too familiar scene, police picked up the dead and after the blasts and loaded them into vehicles that headed to Baghdad’s overflowing morgue.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday Baghdad was key to restoring security in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has extended the tour of duty for about 3,700 U.S. troops from the 172nd Stryker Brigade, based in Mosul, so they could be sent to Baghdad. The troops began arriving in the capital on Sunday.
The top U.S. officer in Iraq, General George Casey, told a news conference on Monday U.S. and Iraqi troops would drive guerrillas and militia “death squads” from Baghdad and improve security by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which falls in late September this year.
As U.S. and Iraqi forces focused on Baghdad, violence continued elsewhere.
Gunmen killed two employees of a private company in a small town near the northern city of Kirkuk, police said.
In Falluja, west of Baghdad, gunmen killed a police lieutenant colonel and wounded his brother, police said.