Iraq violence seen as effort to derail pullout

A string of deadly bombings has hit Baghdad and other areas as the U.S. prepares to pull out of Iraqi cities and towns next week.

A car bomb at a bus station in a Shiite neighborhood in southwest Baghdad on Thursday killed at least seven people and wounded 31 others, police said. A massive motorbike bomb explosion late Wednesday killed 78 people and wounded more than 100 in an open-air market in Baghdad's densely populated Shiite Sadr City.

Most of the attacks so far have targeted Shiites or communities with predominantly Shiite populations, according to Associated Press reporter Patrick Quinn.

The killing spree began June 20 with a series of car bombings and other attacks in several cities, including a massive suicide truck bombing that killed 82 people in a mainly Shiite town near the northern city of Kirkuk, a scene of ongoing ethnic strife. It was the deadliest bombing so far this year.

More than 160 people have died in bombings over the past five days.

Under the security agreement signed by the U.S. and Iraq last December, all U.S. combat troops must leave Iraqi cities and towns on June 30. They must pull out of Iraq completely by the end of 2011.

Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni from the Iraqi Islamic Party, said Thursday that the attacks aim to delay or hamper the U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi cities by the end of June, according to a statement posted on his website, the Aswat al-Iraq (Voices of Iraq) news agency reported.

The Iraqi Communist Party said the attacks serve to disrupt the withdrawal timetable and prolong the U.S. occupation.

The “new wave of violence and terrorism is aiming, among other things, to drag the country once again to the brink of sectarian strife, spread a climate of fear and terror in the hearts of citizens, destroy the signs of security improvement that the country had started to experience during recent months and destabilize the relative political stability,” the Iraqi Communists said in a .

“Contrary to what the planners and perpetrators of these acts have claimed, the recent wave of bombings serve, ultimately, to obstruct the restoration of Iraq's full sovereignty and independence, and the implementation of the timetable for withdrawing foreign forces, thus prolonging the presence of occupation forces.”

The party said the wave of violence also seeks to influence the referendum on the Iraq-U.S. agreement that is currently set for late July.

suewebb @ pww.org