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Bomb Kills 10, Baghdad Raids Continue

A car bomb killed at least 10 people packed into a Baghdad market Wednesday as an Iraqi government spokesman praised a decrease in attacks during a new security plan in the capital.

U.S. forces killed eight suspected militants in a raid north of the city, and captured six others in separate operations around Baghdad, the military said.

The car bomb hit midmorning in Baiyaa, one of Baghdad's most popular shopping districts in a mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood. Hours after the blast, charred clothes hung from vendors' stalls. A woman in a long black veil dragged a shopping cart behind her, empty.

Black smoke rose from the smoldering wreckage of at least four cars gutted by the explosion, and damage reached the second story of buildings nearby. Corrugated tin roofs were peeled back by the force of the blast.

Shop owner Imad Jassim ran out into the street when he heard the explosion.

"People were in a state of panic. There was a lot of blood on the ground and we helped carrying the wounded to the ambulances," Jassim said.

"The terrorists behind this massacre want to paralyze life in Baghdad by attacking markets and public crowds," he said.

At Yarmouk Hospital nearby, some of the 20 wounded were wheeled outside on gurneys attached to IV bags. The dead bodies of at least three women were shrouded by their black abayas, or traditional Islamic coverings.

The Baiyaa attack came two weeks into a joint U.S.-Iraqi plan to halt burgeoning violence in Baghdad. Iraq's spokesman for the plan, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Mousawi, praised a "remarkable decrease" in the level of violence in recent weeks.

"The level of terrorist attacks have sharply dropped," al-Mousawi said.

At least 70 militants have been killed and more than 450 arrested in Baghdad since the plan was announced Feb. 12, he said. More than 10,000 rounds of ammunition were confiscated in raids across the city, al-Mousawi added.

American troops conducted at least three raids in and around Baghdad early Wednesday, targeting al Qaeda in Iraq and locals harboring the terror group, the military said.

U.S. intelligence reports indicated that militants linked to small arms fire and rocket attacks on U.S. forces were operating northeast of Taji, a town on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

Eight people died when American helicopters and fighter planes fired on a palm grove, and two suspects there were detained, it said. Four others were picked up in Baghdad.

In other developments:

  • Iraq's neighbors including Iran and Syria have agreed to join U.S. and British representatives to discuss the Iraqi security crisis at a regional conference March 10 in Baghdad, the government said Wednesday. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he will be issuing formal invitations shortly to the neighboring countries and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — to send deputy foreign ministers or senior officials to the meeting.
  • A car bomb exploded near a park popular with young soccer players, killing at least 18 boys in a city west of Baghdad known as a center of the Sunni insurgency, police and Iraqi state television said Tuesday. But the reports were complicated by a separate announcement by the U.S. military that 30 civilians and one Iraqi soldier were injured in a "controlled detonation" of explosives southeast of the same city, Ramadi.
  • Two brothers of a leading Sunni lawmaker were gunned down in Muqdadiyah, a volatile city about 60 miles north of Baghdad, a relative said. The victims were the brothers of Salim Abdullah al-Jubouri, a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front — the largest Sunni bloc in parliament.
  • In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, police said a high-ranking officer and his driver were killed in a drive-by shooting Wednesday. Col. Abdul-Hadi Mohammed Saleh was on his way to work when gunmen sprayed his car with machine gun fire, police said. Saleh's driver was killed and his bodyguard injured, they added.
  • Police said at least four roadside bombs exploded south of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing two people in separate blasts.
  • Security was stepped up Wednesday in Karbala, a Shiite holy city 50 miles south of Baghdad, ahead of a major Muslim holiday next month. The city was being divided into nine security sectors with checkpoints separating them, said Karbala police chief Maj. Gen. Abu al-Walid. Cars, bicycles and carts would be banned from the city during the holiday period, al-Walid said.
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