Baghdad: Two car bombs exploded in Baghdad on Thursday, killing 10 people and injuring 16, officials said. Iraq's prime minister insisted the country's forces were ready to take over security duties in most provinces despite rising violence.
Also yesterday, US officials confirmed that the number of roadside bombs directed against US and Iraqi forces increased sharply last month, dramatising the threat posed by the Sunni-led insurgency despite attention directed to sectarian violence in the capital.
The parked car exploded a little after noon near a market in Sadr City, damaging many shops besides inflicting the casualties, said police Lt Adil Salih.
Residents said the casualties were low because most people had finished their shopping early to escape the 49 degrees Celsius heat that was forecast for Baghdad on Thursday.
The Iraqi army general command said in a statement that seven people were killed and 15 injured.
A second car bomb missed a police patrol in Mansour neighbourhood in northern Baghdad, killing three bystanders and wounding a fourth, said police Capt Jamil Hussain.
Sadr City, a predominantly Shiite neighbourhood, is one of the most tightly secured areas in Baghdad, patrolled by police as well as members of the Mehdi Army of the anti-US cleric Moqtada Al Sadr.
The security is to prevent attacks by Sunni insurgents, but the latest attack demonstrates the difficulties of controlling the seething sectarian violence, which has risen steadily since the February 22 explosion at a Shiite shrine in Samarra.
The bombing triggered a wave of reprisal killings and has raised fears of an all-out civil war.
The sectarian violence has diverted attention from the threat posed by Sunni insurgents. But recent figures suggest that the insurgency is gaining strength despite setbacks, including the June 7 death of Al Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, killed in an airstrike northeast of Baghdad.
US officials said in July, a total of 2,625 explosive devices exploded or were discovered before they could detonate. That was up sharply from the 1,454 bombs that went off or were discovered in January.
Of the bombs discovered in July, 1,666 of them exploded and the rest were detected. About 70 per cent of them were directed at US-led forces. Twenty per cent were directed at Iraqi security forces and 10 per cent against civilians, the officials said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release figures, which were first reported by The New York Times.
Still, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said government forces are ready to take over the country's security in most areas, a statement from his office said.
It quoted Al Maliki as telling the visiting Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico: "Iraqi forces are capable of taking over the security in most of the Iraqi provinces and will be able to fill the vacuum if the multinational forces withdraw." He did not elaborate.
Fico, who arrived yesterday on a 24-hour visit, had said last month that he plans to bring back the country's 104 soldiers, but gave no timetable.
Recent figures suggest that the insurgency is gaining strength despite setbacks, including the June 7 death of Al Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.