Roadside Bombs Kill 7 People in Western Iraq

Two roadside bombs targeting police exploded in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on Wednesday, killing nine people and wounding 13, Iraqi officials said.

The first blast exploded in central Ramadi, and then another blast went off just steps away after police and other people gathered on the scene. Staggering the blasts is a common tactic by insurgents who hope to lure in rescuers and onlookers with the first blast to maximize the carnage with the second explosion.

Jasim al-Halbusi, head of the Anbar provincial council, said the blasts went off about 6 p.m. He said one of the dead was a policeman and three of the injured were police officers.

The deputy governor of Anbar province, Hikmat Jasim Zaidan, said nine people were killed.

Ramadi, the provincial capital, used to be one of the strongholds of the al-Qaida-led insurgency.

In recent years, the city has seen a return to normalcy as violence has tapered off.

But militants are still able to carry out intermittent attacks, and police, military and government officials are often targeted because the militants view them as cooperating with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

Many people are worried such violence will rebound if American forces leave the country at the end of this year as expected. All 46,000 troops are supposed to be gone by Dec. 31 under a 2008 agreement. But Wednesday morning, after hours of negotiations, Iraqi political leaders announced they would begin negotiations with the United States about keeping an American force in Iraq into next year.

Iraq's leaders are torn between the nation's shaky security and its war-weary public in deciding whether U.S. forces should leave by Dec. 31. The issue has also put Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in an uncomfortable position with one of his top allies, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is bent on driving American forces from the country.

Washington has offered to have up to 10,000 U.S. troops stay and continue training Iraqi forces on tanks, fighter jets and other military equipment.

Late Tuesday, four Iraqis were killed by two bomb blasts targeting a liquor store in western Baghdad.