BAGHDAD, Iraq – Bomb attacks on markets in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad killed at last 16 people, among 38 Iraqis killed or found dead across the country on Thursday in the latest outbreak of sectarian violence.
Seven of those were killed when a car bomb detonated outside shops in northern Baghdad's Qahira district as noontime shoppers were gathering, said police Lt. Ali Muhsin. He said 27 others were injured and seven cars destroyed.
Around the same time, a suicide boomer plowed his explosives-rigged vehicle into crowds gathered in Mission commercial complex for spare parts in Baghdad's downtown Karradah district, police Col. Abbas Mohammed Salman said. At least nine were killed and 27 wounded in that attack, he said.
Iraqis on Thursday cheered the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, blaming him for policy failures and scandals they say helped spawn the daily sectarian carnage that continue to wrack their nation, more than three years after the U.S. invasion.
"Rumsfeld's resignation shows the scale of the mess the U.S. has made in Iraq," said Ibrahim Ali, 44, who works at the Oil Ministry. "The efforts by American politicians to hide their failure are no longer working."
Hardline Sunni politician Hamid al-Mutlaq hailed Rumsfeld's departure as evidence of the downfall of those who engineered the invasion and what he called their "evil project" in Iraq.
"Yesterday, the curse of Iraq and the sin of the blood of its innocent people has fallen upon Rumsfeld, the enemy of humanity and the killer of the Iraqis," said al-Mutlaq, a senior leader of the Sunni Arab National Dialogue Front, which holds 11 of the 275 seats in parlaiment.
Iraq's Shiite-led government has yet to comment on Rumsfeld's resignation, announced Wednesday, although Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has grown increasingly critical of U.S. policies, pushing ever-harder for his government to be handed more responsibility for security by U.S.-led coalition forces.
With a special U.S. committee looking into new policy options for Iraq, many in Baghdad said they expect changes in the U.S. approach under Rumsfeld's expected replacement, former CIA director Robert Gates.
"I think that there will a shift in the U.S. policy in Iraq after his resignation," said Osama Ahmed, 50, a civil servant.
Wednesday's news of Rumsfeld's resignation came shortly after Iraq's parliament voted to extend the country's state of emergency for 30 more days, a recognition that Iraqi security forces and their U.S. allies are still far from bringing violence in check.
October was a particularly bloody month for Iraqis, with more than 1,200 killed, and November so far looks to be just as bad. At least 66 Iraqis were killed on Wednesday, although that is likely much lower than the true figure since many deaths go unreported. Since this summer, the United Nations has bumped its daily death toll estimate to 100 per day.
A director of Baghdad's main morgue, Dr. Abdul-Razaq al-Obaidi, said up to 60 bodies were arriving each day. Many go unclaimed and are buried in a public cemetery after photgraphs are taken for later identification.
"We can't keep them all this time," al-Obaidi said.
Iraqi security forces continue to be the constant target of snipers, car bombs and kidnappers, with 39 policemen killed and 170 wounded over the seven days from Nov. 3 to Nov. 9, according to Brig. Abdel-Karim Khalaf said at a news conference. At least 21 U.S. troops have also been killed this month.
Late Wednesday, the military released details of two previously unreported operations conducted over recent days, including a 90-minute firefight in northern Baghdad on Sunday in which 38 suspected Iraqi insurgents were killed and nine wounded.
In a statement, the military said soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 506th Regimental Combat Team, were attacked from both the north and south by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades at Forward Operating Base Apache. That followed earlier reports from Iraqi police of fighting in the area late Saturday in which 53 Iraqi fighters were killed, although it wasn't immediately clear if those were the same incidents.
In a separate report, the military said heavily armed insurgents ambushed a joint Iraqi-U.S. patrol on Tuesday near the town of Dugmat, about 152 miles south of Kirkuk.
U.S. forces reponded with ground troops and air strikes, killing eight fighters, it said. One U.S. soldier was killed and three wounded in the action, it said, casualties already reported and included in the monthly tally.
In other violence, a policeman, guard, and student were killed when unknown assailants stormed the Maali primary school as classes were starting in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.
Three others were killed and 19 injured when a roadside bomb hidden a sack exploded near a crowd of street vendors in central Baghdad's Tayarn square said police Lt. Ali Muhsin.
One policeman and two civilians were killed when a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi police patrol near a market in Tal Afar, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad.
A police colonel and his driver were killed in a shooting along a highway in eastern Baghdad, police Lt. Bilal Ali said, while gunmen in a speeding car gunned down a reputed former member of the paramilitary Saddam Fedayeen controlled by former president Saddam Hussein's late son, Ode, in Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Two others were killed when a mortar bomb landed on a car in Palestine street in eastern Baghdad, said police Lt. Ali Muhsin. The bodies of at least six victims of roving sectarian death squads were found dumped in Baghdad, police Capt. Fires Gait said.
Such squads are believed to have strong links to Shiite militias sponsored by political parties whose support is crucial for the survival of al-Maliki's shaky Shiite-dominated government.
Al-Maliki rebuffed pressure from a pair of U.S. officials dispatched over recent days in a bid to pressure al-Maliki to quickly disband Shiite militia groups and death squads, according to a top aide to the prime minister.
Al-Maliki told National Intelligence Director John Negroponte there was no way that could happen this year, but indicated that was on the agenda for 2007, the aide, who refused to allow use of his name because of the sensitive nature of the information, told The Associated Press.
Al-Maliki's refusal to act against the militias has caused deepening anger among Sunni politicians who took enormous risks in joining the political process.
Sunni lawmaker Salim Abdullah said the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc had sent messages to other political groups warning that if there is no balance and the militias are not dissolved "we will withdraw from the government."
"We are under political pressure, and if these demands are not met we will abandon politics," Abdullah said.
"And this will leave us with only one alternative, which is carrying arms, and then it will be civil war," he said.