Police are targets in violence across Iraq

A car
bomb detonated a fuel tank in Iraq’s
second-largest city, Basra, on Saturday, spreading fire through a crowded
market, Interior Ministry officials said, in the worst attack of the day that
marked five months since Iraqis voted for a
new government that has yet to be created.

In all,
at least 30 people were killed in attacks on Saturday.

For
weeks, American and Iraqi officials have said they expect violence to grow as
the American military reduces the number of its troops to 50,000 from about
64,000 by the end of the month. The withdrawal comes amid anxiety in the
streets over the political paralysis, which could last months more, and growing
fears that insurgents are trying to reorganize in regions like Baghdad and
Falluja, where they long had a presence.

American
officials have echoed those worries. “We have seen Al Qaeda attempt to reassert
itself,” said the United States military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza.

Witnesses
reported a hellish scene in Basra, about 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, as
electric wires ignited spilled gasoline, Interior Ministry officials said. They
said the bomb had set off the fuel tank, though the police in the city
maintained that a generator next to the tank, common in a city with prolonged
blackouts, had malfunctioned, causing the explosion.

“A big
explosion threw me from my seat,” said Haider Salih, the owner of a nearby
shop. “I saw bodies everywhere, but I didn’t know who was dead or alive.”

Some
people at the scene angrily blamed the deadlock among Iraq’s political leaders.
“Where is the government?” asked another resident, Mohammed Bakir. “Everyone is
busy fighting over a seat in the government and we’re left alone. No one looks
after us.”

The toll
of at least 16 dead and 110 wounded, many of them burned by the fires, was the
worst amid a spate of assassinations, gun battles and bombings that rattled
Baghdad and still-turbulent regions to the north and west of the capital on
Saturday.

The worst
fighting erupted in the Baghdad neighborhood of Saidiya, where the police and
insurgents fought from midnight until the early morning. Four policemen and an
insurgent were killed.

Gunmen
also killed a policeman in northern Baghdad, the latest of several attacks on
the traffic police, who are often the most vulnerable in the city’s chaotic
streets.

More
attacks were reported in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad, where two members
of an American-allied group that fought the insurgency were assassinated. Two
more men were killed in a car that exploded there, officials said. In Falluja,
once a bastion of the insurgency, insurgents blew up a house used as a police
base, killing four policemen, officials said. Another policeman was killed in a
drive-by shooting.

Near Mosul, a suicide
bomber blew himself up near a police patrol, killing a policeman, official
said.

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