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Iraq Slum Bomb Kills At Least Seven, Wounds Dozens


A street lined with collapsed and crumbling buildings in the Shi'ite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Two roadside bombs in Baghdad's crowded Shi'ite slum of Sadr City have killed at least seven people and wounded dozens, security officials said.

The first bomb apparently targeting casual laborers killed four people and left 39 wounded, said Baghdad security spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi on July 21.

U.S. troops pulled out of Iraqi cities and towns on June 30, vacating a number of urban posts, including Sadr City, which lies in the capital's east and was once a haven for Shi'ite militants loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Many Iraqis doubt whether their own forces can handle security threats without backing from U.S. firepower.

Militants are likely to step up attacks to test Iraqi security forces ahead of national elections scheduled for January, officials say. Some politicians will try to intimidate rivals or show the government is failing on security by backing militant groups to plant bombs, the officials say.

"This year is such an important year: it is the last chance for the enemy," the head of Iraqi forces in Baghdad, Major-General Abboud Qanbar, told Reuters in an interview on July 20. "With no U.S. forces in cities, they have no justification as cover for their terrorist actions."

But he added: "This is also an election year. Politicians will use attacks to try to gain advantage over rivals."

Violence has fallen sharply across Iraq, but militant groups are still capable of carrying out frequent bomb attacks.

A roadside bomb targeting the convoy of Water Resources Minister Abdul Latif Rasheed wounded six people including three traffic police on July 21. It did not hurt anyone in the convoy.

Elsewhere, Iraq's western city of Ramadi declared a state of emergency and imposed a vehicle ban after two bomb attacks on July 21, police said, one day after an explosion in the usually quiet city killed two policemen.

A suicide bomber in a moving car and a bomb in a parked car detonated near-simultaneously near a group of restaurants, killing three people and wounding 13 others, police said.

During a state of emergency more police are deployed, and they conduct greater security checks. A vehicle ban has also been in imposed in Falluja, Anbar's second city.

The fronts of the restaurants were severely damaged in the Ramadi blasts, and blood stained the ground nearby.