BAGHDAD – A series of bombings killed at least 19 people and wounded 60 Sunday in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, said police and hospital officials, a worrying sign that violence may be on the rise in this former hotbed of the insurgency.
The first explosion occurred in a parking lot in Ramadi, when a parked car exploded near the police headquarters for Anbar province and the provincial council building, said a local police official.
As police and bystanders rushed to the scene, a second car parked in the vicinity blew up, said the police official. According to the official, a third vehicle exploded about an hour later near the gates to the Ramadi hospital.
Multiple explosions timed to kill rescuers and security forces responding to an earlier bomb were a hallmark of Al Qaeda in Iraq forces during the height of the insurgency.
One bystander, Musaab Ali Mohammed, said he was buying cigarettes from a shop near the police headquarters when he heard a big explosion and saw smoke billowing out from the parking lot.
"I saw police cars and firefighters, and they started to carry out the wounded and dead. ... Minutes later, a second explosion took place," he said, adding that many of the injured in the second blast appeared to be firefighters. "After that, policemen started to fire in the air and called upon civilians to leave, fearing a third blast."
The police and hospital official both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Anbar province was the scene of some of the most intense fighting by U.S. troops during the insurgency.
Violence tapered off significantly after local tribes decided to ally with U.S. forces, but bombings such as those Sunday are a worrying sign of the insurgency's resilience in the western province.
Aeefan Sadoun, a member of the Anbar provincial council, told The Associated Press that Sunday's attacks "represent a limited security breach that will be fixed soon."
He said the attacks do not signify a "big security deterioration in the province," but are rather a sign that insurgents are trying to attack "soft areas full of civilians" because they are unable to fight the Iraqi security forces.