BAGHDAD, Iraq — A suicide car bomb struck a market Wednesday in the Shiite district of Sadr City and police said 17 people died, a day after a blast targeting university students killed 70 in what appeared to be a renewed campaign of Sunni insurgent violence against Shiites.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, a convoy carrying members of a U.S. democracy group was ambushed by gunmen, and four of the workers, including an American woman, were killed, an official said.
The three-car convoy belonged to the National Democratic Institute, and among the dead was an American, a Hungarian, a Croatian and an Iraqi, said Les Campbell, the group’s Middle East director.
The latest explosion occurred at 3:55 p.m. near the outdoor Mereidi market, one of the neighborhood’s most popular commercial centers, and also injured 33 people, police said. The force of the blast shattered the windows of nearby stores and restaurants.
On Tuesday, twin car bombs struck Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, not far from Sadr City, as students lined up for the ride home, leaving at least 70 dead and more than 130 injured.
It was the single deadliest attack on civilians in Iraq since Nov. 23, when a series of car bombs and mortar attacks by suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters in Sadr City slum killed at least 215 people.
Kirkuk police targeted
Another suicide car bomb exploded earlier Wednesday at a checkpoint in the city of Kirkuk after guards opened fire as the driver approached a police station, police said. The blast killed eight people and injured dozens.
The explosion in the center of the oil-rich city 180 miles north of Baghdad came amid rising violence in northern Iraq even as the government and U.S. forces prepare to launch a security operation aimed at stopping sectarian attacks in the capital.
The escalation of deadly attacks coincided with Tuesday’s release of U.N. figures that showed an average of 94 civilians died each day in sectarian bloodshed in 2006.
Two more American soldiers died this week, the U.S. military said. One soldier from the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division died Wednesday from wounds sustained in an operation in Anbar, the Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. Another soldier from Regimental Combat Team 5 died Monday, the military said without elaborating.
The deaths brought the toll of U.S. military members who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003 to 3,028, according to an Associated Press count.
'Attack on Iraq’s sovereignty'
The U.S. capture last week of six Iranians working at a liaison office in the northern city of Irbil drew criticism Wednesday from the leader of the 130-member Shiite bloc in parliament, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim. One of the six was released and the five others were alleged to be connected to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents in Iraq.
“Regardless of the Iranian position, we consider these actions as incorrect,” al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. “They represent a kind of attack on Iraq’s sovereignty and we hope such things are not repeated.”
In other violence, a mortar attack on a residential area in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of the capital, killed a woman and injured 10 people, police said.
Gunmen in a car also opened fire on two brothers, aged 30 and 35, on their way to work as construction workers in Mahaweel, 35 miles south of Baghdad. One was killed and the other was wounded, police said.
In Baghdad, a civilian was killed in a drive-by shooting in the west, while a roadside bomb struck a downtown commercial district, injuring a policeman and a bystander, police said.
Five unidentified bodies were found by Iraqi police. Two of them were apparently killed by a sniper on Haifa Street, a Sunni Arab stronghold in Baghdad that has seen recent fierce clashes. The others were found shot to death with their hands and legs bound in areas in western Baghdad, police said.
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