BAGHDAD, Iraq – Car bombs and explosions rocked wide areas of the Iraqi capital Friday, targeting U.S. and Iraqi security forces and killing at least 29 people. Two U.S. Marines died in a blast near the Jordanian border.
At least 111 people, including seven American soldiers, were wounded in the bombings — at least seven of them homicide attacks. One of the homicide bombings occurred after sundown on a bridge over the Tigris River near the home of President Jalal Talabani (search).
Three security guards were killed and nine people were wounded in that attack. Talabani was at home at the time, aides said, but the target may have been a U.S. convoy.
The wave of attacks, which began at midmorning and persisted after nightfall, marked an escalation in car bombings in Baghdad after a six-week U.S.-Iraqi military offensive sharply reduced their numbers since May.
They took place one day after a homicide attack on the Green Zone (search) in which one would-be bomber was captured. A homicide blast near a U.S. convoy on Wednesday killed 27 people, including 18 children and one American soldier.
"The terrorists continue to strike at the most innocent," U.S. Col. Joseph DiSalvo said of the civilian casualties. "There is no place in a civilized society for these murderers."
In the deadliest attack Friday, a homicide car bomber struck an Iraqi army base in the Shaab neighborhood (search) of Baghdad, killing eight Iraqis, including civilians and security personnel, and wounding 20, Maj. Khazim al-Tamimi said.
Another suicide car bomb Friday evening in western Baghdad targeted a police commando patrol, killing six policemen and wounding 45 people, including 38 civilians, police Capt. Taleb Thamer said.
Two Iraqi soldiers died and seven people were wounded when a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near an Iraqi patrol in Andalus Square in central Baghdad, Col. Salman Abdul Karim said.
A car bomb also exploded near a U.S. convoy in the Rustamiyah area of southeastern Baghdad, wounding two Americans, the U.S. military said.
Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and 14 people wounded in a suicide car bombing at the former Defense Ministry building in northern Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.
Another car bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, wounding six people, including a U.S. soldier, police said.
Also Friday, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. military patrol was passing near the west Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriyah, police Lt. Majed Zaki said. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi insurgents exchanged gunfire after the blast, he said. One Iraqi civilian was killed and eight people, including four U.S. soldiers, were wounded, officials said.
Al-Qaida's wing in Iraq claimed responsibility in Internet statements for the attacks in Rustamiyah and Andalus Square, but the authenticity could not be confirmed.
Elsewhere, a suicide car bomb killed five Iraqi soldiers and one civilian and wounded 17 civilians in Haswa, 30 miles south of Baghdad, officials said. Gunmen killed three Iraqi policemen Friday at a checkpoint near Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said.
In Kirkuk, a car packed with explosives detonated prematurely late Friday, killing the two men in the vehicle and a passer-by, police said.
The two U.S. Marines died Thursday in a roadside bombing during combat operations near the border with Jordan, the U.S. military said in a statement Friday.
At least 1,761 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,356 died as a result of hostile action. The figures include five military civilians.
The explosions occurred on the Muslim day of prayer, ordinarily a relatively quiet period in the capital.
During a Friday sermon at a mosque, a prominent Sunni cleric condemned the violence, especially the Wednesday homicide bombing that killed the 18 children.
Sheik Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai, a moderate member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, called the attack Wednesday a "crime" but added that the Americans and their international partners share some of the blame.
"The (U.S.-led) occupation that has destroyed the country and turned things upside down is responsible for that," al-Samarrai said.
Meanwhile, a U.S. commander said the level of violence in his sector, which includes the key cities of Tikrit, Kirkuk and Samarra, remains about where it was prior to the January election — a sign of the insurgency's resilience.
"The suicide bomb, of course, is the weapon of choice now," Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, told reporters at the Pentagon via an audio link from Baghdad.
He said the number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces by roadside bombs, mortars and small arms has declined substantially. But the number of homicide bomb attacks grew from a monthly average of five to eight prior to the January elections to 15 in May and June, Taluto said. He blamed religious extremists for the increase.
Taluto said U.S. forces in his area were making progress in giving more responsibility to Iraqi forces, but he would not say how soon the Iraqis would be ready to assume full control. The transfer of security responsibility is key to withdrawing American forces from Iraq.
Also Friday, the bodies of five men — handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head — were discovered by a farmer on the outskirts of Baghdad. Police Lt. Col. Sabah Hamid said the bodies had no identity papers. Two days ago, the bodies of 10 men were found in the same area.
It was not clear if the dead were Sunnis or Shiites. Sectarian tensions are on the rise and each group has accused the other of assassinations.