9 killed in series of explosions in western Iraq

AP News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2011 4:04 PM
9 killed in series of explosions in western Iraq

A series of bombings ripped through the capital of Iraq's western Anbar province Thursday night, killing nine people, Iraqi officials said.

The blasts in what was the heartland of the al-Qaida-led insurgency are a reminder of the danger still facing Iraq, as it prepares for the departure of the remaining U.S. troops by the end of this year.

A police officer and hospital official said at least 25 people were also injured in the explosions.

The bomb explosions appeared coordinated to maximize deaths. A police official said two roadside bombs went off near the market, and then a parked car bomb exploded when police arrived on the scene. Then another parked car bomb exploded near the hospital where the injured were taken, the official said.

Insurgents often stagger their blasts in order to kill or wound rescuers and security officials who arrive on the scene to help those injured in the first explosion.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

"The four explosions took place between eight and 8:30 p.m., and most of the people at this time were at home and the casualties might have been higher if the explosions took place earlier," said Jasim al-Halbusi, head of the Anbar Provincial Council.

Ramadi is 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad. At one time the city was a battleground between American forces and Sunni extremists, many of whom were from places like Yemen, Libya and Syria. Eventually the Iraqis from Anbar turned on them and aligned themselves with the American forces, in what turned out to be a turning point in the war.

Since then, al-Qaida in Iraq has targeted people in Anbar province, both civilians and security forces, in retribution and because they see them as allying with the Shiite-led government.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's bombings, but the coordinated nature of the blasts suggests tactics used by al-Qaida-linked militants operating in Iraq.

Also Thursday, a leading Human Rights organization accused Iraq's central government and regional Kurdish leaders of beating and illegally detaining protesters to try to stop demonstrations calling for reforms.

A statement from the New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Iraqi authorities to release detained protesters or formally charge those suspected of breaking the law.

"Iraq needs to make sure that security forces and pro-government gangs stop targeting protest organizers, activists, and journalists," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

In one incident, HRW cited a May 28 security raid on the offices of a public interest organization in central Baghdad, where 13 activists were handcuffed, blindfolded and hauled away. Four activists were released without charges later, and nine remain in custody.

In the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north, a protest organizer had his noise broken after eight armed and masked men grabbed him from the street, the statement said.

While demonstrations across the Arab world have focused on regime change, most of the protests in Iraq have been pushing for improved services, jobs and an end to corruption.

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Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report.