, BAGHDAD, Jun 26 – Iraq’s main motorcycle market was hit by a bombing that killed 13 people and wounded more than 40, just four days before US soldiers pull out of cities, towns and villages nationwide.
Defence and interior ministry officials confirmed the toll and said the bomb went off around 9 am (0600 GMT) while people gathered at the market on the Muslim day of rest.
"A motorcycle exploded in the centre of a motorcycle market in Nahdha district, killing 13 people and wounding over 40," a security official said.
The blast was the latest in a string of attacks to hit the conflict-torn nation in the run-up to the June 30 withdrawal of American troops from Iraq’s urban areas.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki moved to reassure Iraqis on Thursday that his security forces were able to protect the population after a massive bomb killed dozens.
Wednesday’s attack in a market in the overwhelmingly Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad was one of the deadliest this year, killing at least 62 people and wounding about 150.
"We assure you of Iraqi forces’ readiness for the mission, despite some security violations, and we assure you that we are now more stable and steady," Maliki said.
He appealed to Iraqis to inform the army and police of any potential attacks, to ensure that the country did not return to the sectarian violence that blighted it throughout 2006 and 2007.
The flare-up of attacks across Iraq was part of "a plan that aims to awaken sectarianism, create chaos, abort the political process and prevent Iraqi people from standing on their own feet," he said.
The White House has insisted that President Barack Obama is not reconsidering his decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq’s urban areas.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the top US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, had told Obama that the June 30 deadline would be honoured.
Asked whether Obama had any second thoughts about the pullback, or whether he had approached the Iraqi government about a change in arrangements, Gibbs said "No, No."
Wednesday’s bomb in Sadr City was the third major attack in Iraq this month, and means that June’s death toll from violence will top the 155 Iraqis killed in May.
A June 20 truck bombing near the northern oil city of Kirkuk killed 72 people and wounded more than 200, the deadliest attack in 16 months.
On June 10, a car bombing in the largely peaceful southern province of Dhi Qar killed 19 people.