BAGHDAD, Iraq – Two bombs exploded about 20 minutes apart Thursday in eastern Baghdad, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding dozens, officials said.
The violence began at 5 p.m. when a car bomb detonated near a gas station, killing at least two people and wounding 13, Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said.
At 5:20 p.m., another explosion believed caused by a suicide car bomber ravaged a bustling outdoor market, killing nine people and wounding 57, said al-Mohammedawi and another official, Lt. Mohammed Khayoun.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said five U.S. troops died in separate attacks. A roadside bomb blast killed three U.S. soldiers south of Baghdad on Wednesday, while a fourth soldier died the same day from wounds sustained in a small-arms fire attack in the capital's southwest, the military said. A U.S. Marine was fatally wounded Wednesday during combat near the western city of Fallujah.
The deaths were the first among U.S. personnel since Jan. 28 and took the total of U.S. military fatalities to 2,247 since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Early Thursday, a U.S. helicopter fired rockets into a crowded Shiite neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, killing a young woman, after the aircraft was fired on, the U.S. command said.
The early morning attack in the vast eastern Baghdad area of Sadr City damaged several houses and cars, and both residents and Shiite politicians condemned the U.S. attack as reckless and provocative.
The U.S. military said the exchange of fire took place at about 1 a.m. as its troops were pursuing a "known terrorist associated with Ansar al-Sunnah," a Sunni militant group that has claimed responsibility for suicide attacks and beheadings.
"As troops were leaving the area in a U.S. military helicopter, men on a nearby rooftop began firing at the aircraft," said military spokesman Sgt. Stacy Simon. "The helicopter returned fire with guns and rockets."
The military had no details on casualties, but Sadr City resident Abdul-Hussein Shanoof said his 20-year-old daughter, Ikhlas Abdul-Hussein, was killed. Shanoof was also wounded, along with another woman and a 2-year-old child.
Footage showed Shanoof's house with a large hole blasted through his roof and rubble scattered inside.
"At night, the aircraft bombed this and that house. One girl died. The aircraft remained bombing us until morning," a Sadr City resident, who declined to identify himself, told AP Television News.
U.S. soldiers detained two unidentified people before the attack inside Sadr City, the power base of radical anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The area was the scene of fierce clashes between Shiite militiamen and American forces in 2004 through to early 2005.
But American forces have been recently holding up the neighborhood as a model of improving relations between the U.S. military and the Iraqi community.
Transport Minister Salam al-Maliki, an al-Sadr supporter, condemned the U.S. attack and demanded compensation for victims.
"These military operations aim at weakening the supporters of the Sadrist movement, are considered provocative and represent a clear violation against the security situation in the country," al-Maliki told The Associated Press in the southern city of Basra.
In Baghdad, another Sadr supporter, Shiite lawmaker Falah Hassan Shanshal, accused the U.S. of trying to "draw the Sadr movement into a new fight to affect our participation in the political process."
"The occupation is trying to shake the United Iraqi Alliance after their successful election results," said lawmaker Bahaa al-din al-Araji, another al-Sadr supporter and senior member of the alliance, the major Shiite bloc that fared best in the Dec. 15 parliamentary election.
Shiites dominate the outgoing government and are sure to play the major role in the next one since a coalition of religious Shiite parties won the largest bloc of seats.
The attack came as neither Saddam Hussein nor any of his seven co-defendants attended Thursday's session of the trial to protest the new chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman. The eight are being accused of involvement in the 1982 killings of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in Dujail, north of Baghdad. The session lasted just under two hours and was adjourned until Feb. 13.
Saddam's defense team wants Abdel-Rahman to step down after accusing him of having a "personal feud" with the former leader because the judge was born in Halabja, a Kurdish village hit by a poison gas attack allegedly ordered by Saddam in 1988. Some 5,000 Kurds were killed, including several of Abdel-Rahman's relatives.
U.S. and Iraqi authorities had hoped the trial would proceed smoothly and lead to a calming of Iraq's rampant insurgency, which is fanned in the main by loyalists of the former president, Sunni Arab militants and opponents of the U.S.-led military presence.
But the violence continued Thursday with two roadside bombs targeting an American patrol and damaging two Humvees in Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, said police Lt. Ali al-Bayati. The military said there were no U.S. casualties.
Another roadside bomb blast killed three Iraqi army soldiers in eastern Baghdad's Ghazaliyah neighborhood, said army Maj. Moussa Abdul Karim.
Insurgents fired three mortar rounds at the Oil Concentrating Complex, 30 miles west of Kirkuk, triggering a fire but causing no casualties, police Capt. Farhad Talabani said.
The plant is used for cleaning and processing crude oil, processing about 150,000 barrels of crude a day from the northern oil fields before shipment to refineries, the Northern Oil Co. said.
U.S. troops sealed off the site as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.
Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said work at complex had stopped about a week ago following an earlier attack of the main pipeline that feeds crude oil from the northern fields.
Insurgents routinely target local security forces and oil installations to try to cripple U.S.-led attempts to rebuild Iraq following the 2003 invasion.