Two bomb blasts targeting security forces in different parts of Iraq Monday killed two people and wounded 20, underscoring Iraq's instability, though the nation's prime minister insisted that security forces have been mostly successful in curbing insurgent attacks.
Police said a car bomb killed two people and injured 10 in Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city torn by ethnic tensions. Another bomb in Baghdad also wounded 10, including four Iraqi soldiers.
In a violent incident later Monday, unidentified gunmen shot and killed two Iraqi soldiers who were on patrol in Mosul, a former al-Qaida haven in northern Iraq, police and hospital officials said.
In Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of the capital, police Col. Ghazi Mohammed Rashid said a car exploded as a security patrol was driving by. The blast killed two people who happened to be near the car when it blew up. Five police were among the 10 wounded.
Kirkuk has long been plagued by disputes among Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen over land and oil fields. A triple bombing in the city last week killed 27 people and wounded at least 60.
A few hours later, the Baghdad car bomb exploded next to an army patrol in the northern Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah. A police officer and doctor at Kazimiyah hospital said six bystanders and four soldiers were wounded. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Violence has dropped dramatically across Iraq compared to a few years ago, when bloody battles between Sunnis and Shiites brought the nation to the brink of civil war. Even so, attacks still happen every day in Iraq, and military officials and experts say it could be decades before Iraq is stable.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the continued violence on what he described as the last remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq. He said his failure so far to appoint defense and interior ministers to run Iraq's security forces has not hampered their ability to protect the country.
"We were able to stop these terrorist groups," al-Maliki told reporters at a press conference with visiting Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas. "Our security forces are continuing to chase these gangs and to prevent them from resuming their past activities."
Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin and Lara Jakes in Baghdad and Sameer N. Yacoub in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.