15 killed in bomb attacks on markets

A SERIES of blasts struck a market area west of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 15 people, officials said.

The second day of major attacks this week in Iraq underscored the challenges still facing the country’s security forces as they approach a particularly fragile time.

All American troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq in a matter of weeks, leaving Iraqi security forces with sole responsibility for securing the country.

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The first two bombs exploded in the early hours in the mostly Sunni village of al-Zaidan, near the town of Abu Ghraib west of Baghdad. They killed seven people and wounded 11 others, the officials said.

Hours later, three bombs exploded near the kiosks of vendors selling CDs and military uniforms in central Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharqi market district, killing eight people and wounding 19.

“I went outside my shop and saw people running in all directions trying to leave the market area. I saw several bodies and wounded people on the ground,” said Mohammed Youssef, who owns a clothing shop in the area.

Iraqi military commanders ordered all the vendors selling products in the area to close their kiosks and move, in an attempt to clear out the area and make it more difficult for insurgents to hide bombs.

Violence has ebbed across Iraq, but deadly bombings and shootings still occur almost daily.

Iraqi security officials maintain that they are fully prepared for the withdrawal, which is required under a 2008 security pact between the US and Iraq.