iraq car bomb 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Five bomb attacks in Baghdad killed at least 18 people and wounded 57 Thursday, hours before a highly anticipated ceremony in which the US-led coalition was to hand over control of the country's armed forces command to Iraqi authorities.
The bombs, all targeting police patrols, all occurred within about three hours of each other in central, northern and western parts of the capital.
A suicide car bomb targeting a police patrol outside a gas station near the Elouya Hospital in central Baghdad killed 10 people, including four policemen and wounded 18, including six policemen, police Lt. Bilal Ali Majeed said.
The blast damaged 20 cars, including six police vehicles, as well as several nearby shops.
Another suicide car bomb in Taiyran Square in the center of the city killed two civilians and two police special forces members, and wounding 13 people, including seven police special forces troops, Majeed said.
Earlier, a bomb hidden under a parked car near al-Nidaa Mosque in northern Baghdad killed three civilians and wounded another 20, police Lt. Thair Mahmoud said.
The wounded included several members of the Iraqi security forces, Zakariyah Hassan of the Azamiyah police said.
In western Baghdad, a roadside bomb in Qahtan Square near Yarmouk hospital wounded four people, including a policeman, Mahmoud said, while elsewhere, in the upscale district of Mansour, a roadside bomb explosion killed a man and wounded another two people.
The blasts came as Iraq was take control of its armed forces command, a major step in the country's painful path toward independence and an essential move before international troops can eventually withdraw.
The ceremony, which will put the prime minister in direct control of the military, comes five days after it was originally scheduled. The government abruptly called off the original ceremony at the last minute.
The US and the Iraqis did not publicly reveal many details of the disagreement, other than to say it was more procedural than substantive.
Following the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, the US disbanded what was left of the defeated Iraqi army. The US-led coalition has been training and equipping the new Iraqi military, hoping it soon will be in a position to take over security for the entire country and allow foreign troops to return home.
In Thursday's ceremony, the prime minister will take control of Iraq's small naval and air forces, and the 8th Iraqi Army Division.
The 8th Division was recently engaged in a fierce, 12-hour battle with Shi'ite militia in the southern city of Diwaniyah which left more than 20 soldiers and 50 militiamen dead.
Days before the battle, the Division's commander, Brig. Gen. Othman al-Farhoud, told The Associated Press that while his forces were capable of controlling security, they still needed support from the US-led coalition.
He said there was still a need for coalition air support, medical assistance and military storage facilities.
"In my opinion, it will take time," al-Farhoud said when asked how long it would take before his division was completely self-sufficient.
Politicians have been optimistic.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani predicted in a Tuesday meeting with visiting British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett that fighting in Iraq will have abated by the end of 2007, and that Iraqi forces will be able to handle any remaining violence.
Meanwhile, Iraq announced it had executed 27 "terrorists" convicted by Iraqi courts of killings and rapes in several provinces.
The 27 were executed in Baghdad on Wednesday, the government's media office said in a brief statement Thursday. It did not provide any further details.