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7 blasts in Baghdad add to Iraq's worries of renewed war

BAGHDAD — Seven explosions ripped through Iraq's capital Monday, killing at least 32 people and wounding more than 130 in the latest sign that violence may be on the upswing again.

Most of Monday's explosions occurred in crowded shopping markets or other busy gathering places, and most victims were civilians, many of them women and children. All but two of the bombs detonated before 9 a.m.

The explosions came less than two months before U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraqi cities and weeks after President Barack Obama announced plans to withdraw most Americans from the country by late 2010.

Though U.S. troop deaths in Iraq have remained relatively low in recent months, the toll among locals is creeping upward. In early March, a string of bombings killed several dozen Iraqis in a matter of days in Baghdad.

The violence challenges contentions by some U.S. officials and others that Iraq is on a path to stability, and that the planned American troop drawdown won't leave chaos in its wake.

Tensions have risen between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs with few signs of compromise from leaders on either side.

While U.S. officials have tried to blame the renewed violence on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and al Qaida in Iraq, there also are renewed concerns over the future of the groups of local militiamen known as Sons of Iraq, many of them former Sunni Muslim insurgents who killed Americans.

The United States began paying Sunni tribesmen to switch sides and take on al Qaida in Iraq in 2007. Iraq's mostly Shiite Muslim government vowed last year to absorb many of the estimated 100,000 members into the Iraqi army and national police force. Distrust between the militiamen and the government has remained high, however, and the detention of one Sons of Iraq leader sparked street clashes in a Baghdad neighborhood late last month.

The deadliest explosion Monday occurred just before 9 a.m. in Sadr City, a densely populated Shiite slum in northeast Baghdad.

There, a bomb planted in a parked sedan detonated at a crowded market, killing at least 10 civilians and injuring 65. Iraqi police said they expected that death toll to rise, as many of the wounded were badly hurt.

"I saw a man who lost his hand and another who lost a leg and also a woman who lost both hands," said Haider Abd al Hassan, a 30-year-old merchant who was in his shop when the bomb exploded. He said he'd carried away three of the wounded.

Another witness, Hammad Radhi, said Iraqi soldiers began shooting in the air to clear the scene after the explosion. "Some people were yelling at the army not to shoot," Radhi said. "I heard others shouting not to gather because there could be a secondary explosion" targeting rescuers.

Other witnesses at the Sadr City bombing speculated that Monday's violence was the work of those still loyal to the Baath Party. Thursday will mark the sixth anniversary of the fall of Saddam's government.

"This is something done by the Baath Party," said Hashim Ammar, 31. "They are killers who want to revenge the collapse of the regime. This is a disaster against innocent people, and I expect more violence in the coming days."

The first of the day's blasts occurred hours before the Sadr City explosion, when a bomb detonated in a parked car in central Baghdad near a line of laborers waiting for day work. Four people died and at least 15 were wounded, police said.

At 8 a.m., the deputy director of the Internal Security Court, whom police identified only as Brig. Gen. Saadoun, survived a car bomb that targeted his convoy in northeast Baghdad. Two people were killed, including a security guard. Four were wounded.

Half an hour later, in the suburb of Husseiniyah in northeast Baghdad, another market bombing killed four people and wounded 20. There, too, witnesses said, many victims were women and children.

"The market was filled with women and children shopping, of course," said Salam al Rubaie, who passed the scene shortly after the explosion on his way to work at a nearby radio station. "I saw a little boy, maybe 8 or 10 years old, dead. Everyone there looked terrified."

A taxi also detonated near a vegetable market in Dora, in southern Baghdad, wounding two people. The vehicle had been rigged with a magnetic bomb, according to local police.

At 1 p.m., two parked-car bombs ripped through the Maalif area in southeastern Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding at least 25. One bomb detonated near a clinic and another at an open-air market.

(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent. Reilly reports for the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star. Special correspondents Sahar Issa and Jenan Hussein contributed to this story.)


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