Bomb attacks kill at least 18 in Iraq

Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:39pm EST
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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Bombs killed at least 18 people in Iraq on Sunday, police and medics said, as the Shi'ite-led government sought to evict al Qaeda-linked militants from Falluja without a fight.

No group claimed responsibility for the bombings, but Sunni Islamist insurgents have stepped up a violent campaign in the past year, engulfing Iraq in its worst bloodshed for five years.

Sunday's deadliest blast was caused by a car bomb that killed nine people outside a bus terminal in the Allawi district of Baghdad, near the site of a suicide bombing four days ago at an airfield where 23 army recruits were slain.

Another car bomb in Baghdad killed five people, while two bombs planted near a supermarket in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, about 175 km (110 miles) north of the capital, killed at least four people and wounded 28, police said. Most of the victims were Shi'ites from Iraq's ethnic Turkmen minority.

A witness who did not give his name said the bus terminal bomb also targeted army recruits who were registering their names at the Muthanna airfield. "When they left the airport and came and gathered here, the bomb went off," he said.

The government has asked volunteers to join its battle with al Qaeda militants in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar bordering Syria, where the militants are also fighting.

On January 1, militants seized Falluja and parts of the nearby city of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, raising the stakes in a confrontation with the Shi'ite-led government.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has deployed tanks and artillery around Falluja, but is allowing time for negotiations aimed at securing the peaceful eviction of the militants of the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Security forces and armed tribesmen retook Ramadi last week.   Continued...