BAGHDAD – Two explosions in a Shiite neighborhood of eastern Baghdad killed 17 people and wounded around 50 others Thursday night, Iraqi officials said.
The blasts in the Sadr City neighborhood, coming a day after attacks across the capital killed 25 people, served as a reminder of the lengths to which Sunni militants are trying to go in order to re-ignite sectarian tensions as American forces prepare to go home.
First a bomb went off near a house in a narrow alley in Sadr City, said two police officials. Then as people were gathered at the site of the blast, another bomb went off minutes later. All of the 17 dead were killed in the second, more powerful explosion.
Two of the dead were women, and two were police officers.
A barber in Sadr City, Hassan Rahim, said he was cutting a customer’s hair when he heard the first explosion.
“We rushed outside the shop and we saw fire and smoke near the houses,” he said.
Reflecting just how much such violence has become a part of Iraqis’ daily lives, Rahim then went back inside his shop to continue working. That’s when the second blast went off.
“I saw dead people on the ground and several burning cars. We helped take the wounded to the hospital until the arrival of the ambulances,” he said.
“The security forces should do a better job, otherwise we expect more attacks in Sadr city. More people here are having the feeling that the security forces cannot protect people,” he said.
A hospital official confirmed the causalities.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information.
Violence has ebbed across Iraq, but deadly bombings and shootings still occur almost daily as U.S. troops prepare to leave by the end of the year.
American and U.S. officials have been negotiating over whether to have a small American military presence stay behind into next year to train Iraqi forces, but the two sides have been stuck on what type of legal protections if any to provide American forces who remain.
As time goes by, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that any of the roughly 41,000 American forces still in Iraq will stay behind, although there will be a massive American diplomatic presence.
One of the key concerns is whether Iraqi security forces are able to protect the country after they lose American military support in key areas such as intelligence-gathering and counterinsurgency assistance.
Violence is nothing like it was in 2006 or 2007 but attacks still happen frequently. Thursday’s bomb blasts were the third major attack this week.
In addition to the wave of bombings Wednesday, a series of explosions Monday targeting security officials killed 10 people in Baghdad.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report.