BAGHDAD Mar 26 – A car bomb ripped through a crowd in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 16 people, including women and children, a day after the US military said violence in Iraq was at its lowest in six years.,
The blast occurred in the capital’s Shaab neighbourhood, defence and interior ministry officials said.
Four children and three women were among those killed, according to officials at two local hospitals.
Shaab, a mixed neighbourhood, is located north of Sadr City, an overwhelmingly Shiite area in the Iraqi capital.
The car bomb attack came a day after a US military spokesman said attacks countrywide had dropped to their lowest levels since the months which followed the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
"Attacks are at their lowest since August 2003," Major General David Perkins told reporters in Baghdad, saying incidents were 90 percent down compared with June 2007.
"There were 1,250 attacks a week at the height of the violence, now sometimes there are less than 100 a week," he said.
The Shaab car bomb also came three days after a suicide attack against Kurdish mourners in central Iraq killed 27 people and wounded 50.
An explosion near a car repair workshop on the outskirts of Baghdad on the same day killed a further eight people.
Violence has lowered in intensity since the end of 2007 – with the US military stepping up anti-insurgency operations and Iraqi security forces being strengthened – but deadly attacks still take place on an almost daily basis.
In 2007, a total of 17,430 Iraqis were killed, compared to 6,772 last year. The casualty toll for the past three months has been the lowest for a quarter year period since the US-led invasion six years ago.
But persistent bombings and suicide attacks have underscored concerns about Iraq’s security as the US military prepares to quit the country.
In Washington two weeks ago, the White House denied that a spate of attacks was linked to US President Barack Obama’s decision to pull out most combat troops by August next year.
Near daily appeals from the Shiite-dominated government for national reconciliation have been rejected by Saddam Hussein loyalists, still flying the flag of the banned Baath party and pledging to fight on.
Under a US-Iraqi security agreement signed in November, US troops are to pull out of towns and cities by June 30 and from the whole country by the end of 2011.
In a speech last month, Obama ordered an end to US combat in Iraq by August 31 next year but said 50,000 US troops would remain under a new mission until the end of 2011.