A twin bombing killed 18 people and wounded 37 Thursday in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad — the deadliest attack to rock Iraq since President Barack Obama declared the full withdrawal of U.S. forces at the end of the year.
Two police officials said the first explosion, at a music store shortly after 7 p.m., killed two people. The second bomb struck four minutes later, as rescue workers and others rushed to the scene, the officials said.
The first bomb targeted a police patrol in the Iraqi capital's Ur district and the second exploded when emergency services were evacuating the wounded, the sources said.
In recent days militants have carried out a campaign against Baghdad's police force, many of the attacks have been aimed at largely unarmed traffic police officers.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
"I stood outside my shop and saw burning cars and dead bodies on the ground," said Ahmed Jalil, 27, a grocery owner near the attack site in Ur, a Shiite neighborhood in northeast Baghdad. "The situation was miserable and I could see wounded people being loaded on police pickups," he said.
"Today's attack proves that the government's allegations that the security is under control are nothing but baseless allegations and that the tens of checkpoints scattered all over the capital are useless and a waste of resources," Jalil said.
Experts have predicted an increase in violence as the Dec. 31 date for U.S. troops to leave the country approaches. The deadline is part of a 2008 security agreement between Baghdad and Washington.
The Obama administration had considered leaving a few thousand troops in Iraq beyond the end of the year to help maintain security and curb growing Iranian political influence in Baghdad. But Iraqi and U.S. officials failed to come up with an agreement to protect American military personnel who stayed from legal prosecution.
Last week, Obama announced that all troops would withdraw on time as initially planned.
There are currently 39,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.