BAGHDAD (AFP) – Violence in Baghdad and central Iraq on Monday killed 12 people, including eight soldiers struck by a car bomb driven by a suicide attacker in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, officials said.
The unrest came three days after attacks at a Tikrit mosque and later at a hospital treating victims killed 24, raising doubts over the capabilities of Iraqi security forces just months before all US forces must pull out.
Monday’s attack killed eight soldiers, including military intelligence Colonel Nuri Sabah al-Mashhadani and two other officers, and wounded 17 others, according to Salaheddin provincial health director Raid al-Juburi.
The explosion struck at 9:30 am (0630 GMT), targeting the main gate of a fortified compound housing several of Saddam’s presidential palaces, which is home to several security offices and the mosque that was attacked on Friday.
The compound is referred to as Tikrit’s “Green Zone”, referring to the heavily secured centre of Baghdad where parliament and the US embassy reside.
Friday’s violence was the worst in Tikrit since a March 29 Al-Qaeda raid on the city’s provincial council offices, which led to a bloody hours-long gunbattle with security forces that left 58 people dead.
Tikrit was the hometown of Saddam and is the capital of mainly Sunni Arab Salaheddin province, a key battleground in the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.
In Baghdad, two attacks by gunmen against checkpoints in the mainly Sunni northern neighbourhood of Adhamiyah killed three, including one soldier and two anti-Qaeda militiamen, and wounded two others, an interior ministry official and a military official said.
And a car bomb in the eastern district of Palestine street killed one person and wounded 10 others, the interior ministry official said.
The latest violence raise questions over the ability of Iraqi forces to secure the country, with 45,000 American troops due to withdraw at the end of the year under the terms of a bilateral security pact.
Iraqi leaders are still considering whether to request an extension of the US military presence, and top American officials have pressed their Iraqi counterparts to decide soon.
US forces in Iraq are charged primarily with training and equipping local forces, but they still take part in joint counter-terror operations.
Violence in Iraq is down from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 177 people died in May as a result of violence, according to official figures.