MOSUL, June 26 – At least 33 people were killed in two massive bomb attacks in Iraq Thursday, among them 18 people who died when a car bomb ripped through the northern city of Mosul, Iraqi and US officials said.
The US military said initial reports from Mosul indicated that 17 Iraqi civilians and policeman were killed, while 71 civilians and nine policemen were wounded in the car bomb attack.
An Iraqi police officer, who asked not to be named, said insurgents first fired several rockets into the Bab al-Tob market in the centre of Mosul at around 1:00 pm (1000 GMT).
Provincial governor Duraid Mohammed Kashmula then toured the market to assess the damage when a car bomb exploded in the vicinity.
Kashmula survived the bombing, the officer added.
US commanders have said that Iraq’s third largest city is the country’s last urban bastion of Al-Qaeda. Iraqi troops backed by the US military launched a major offensive on May 14 to chase the jihadists out.
A suicide bomber, meanwhile, blew himself in a municipal office in western Iraq earlier Thursday, killing the local mayor and at least 14 senior members of an anti-Qaeda front, according to Iraqi officials.
The attack, in which more than 20 people were wounded, took place in the town of Garma, near the former Sunni rebel bastion of Fallujah in Anbar province, Fallujah town council spokesman Kamal al-Ayash told AFP.
Ayash said the bomber detonated his explosives in the office of local mayor Kamal al-Abdali as he was huddled in a meeting with members of an anti-Qaeda "Awakening" front around noon (0900 GMT).
"Abdali was one of those killed in the attack," Ayash said.
A security official in the interior ministry said at least 15 people were killed and more than 20 wounded in the attack. The toll was confirmed by a defence ministry official.
The bombing marks the second attack on a municipal office in Iraq this week.
On Tuesday, the office of the district advisory council of Baghdad’s Shiite bastion of Sadr City was bombed in an attack which killed four Americans – two soldiers and two civilian employees.
The Garma attack comes just days before Anbar province, once a hotbed of Sunni militancy, is due to be transferred by the US military to the control of Iraqi security forces.
The province, the country’s largest, was the epicentre of a brutal Sunni Arab-led fight against the US military after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
In the early years of the insurgency, US forces fought raging battles in the province, especially in the capital Ramadi and in Fallujah.
Fallujah became a symbol of the ultra-violent insurgency before it was virtually razed to the ground in November 2004 by a US military assault launched to seize control of the city.
The violence in the province started ebbing in late 2006 when local Sunni tribes, weary of Al-Qaeda’s extremism and brutal methods, switched allegiance and formed a common front to chase them out.
The front became known as Sahwa or "Awakening". Most of its members are former Sunni Arab insurgents who fought US forces after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
But since they sided with the US troops in late 2006, violence has fallen dramatically in Anbar, making the province a symbol of stability in Iraq.