BAGHDAD – Bombs targeting security forces struck two Iraqi cities Thursday, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens in a reminder of the country's vulnerability as U.S. troops leave.
In the worst attack, a pair of near-simultaneous blasts killed six security guards who were waiting in line to pick up their paychecks outside an Iraqi military base near Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. At least 35 people were wounded in the double-bombing, said Diyala Health Directorate spokesman Faris al-Azawi.
All of the dead were members of Sahwa, or Awakening Councils, a Sunni militia that sided with U.S. forces against Al Qaeda in a major turning point of the war. The Sahwa have since been targeted by insurgents who call them traitors.
A suicide bomber blew himself up after joining the line of Sahwa early in the morning, according to an Interior Ministry official. Minutes later, a car bomb blew up about 30 feet away.
An Iraqi army intelligence officer said authorities have reliable intelligence that Al Qaeda sleeper cells plan to launch attacks in Baqouba and across Diyala province as U.S. troops withdraw by the end of the year, and afterward.
The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the intelligence is confidential, said Al Qaeda aims to show Iraqis it is still able to strike.
Officials long have said that Al Qaeda's main goal in Iraq is to destabilize the Shiite-led government. Among the terror group's top targets have been government and security officials.
Later Thursday, roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad's upscale and mostly Shiite neighborhood of Karradah, killing two passers-by. Police who rushed to the scene were hit with a second blast, killing two policemen and wounding three others. Also, four passers-by were wounded.
The casualties were confirmed by a medic at Ibn al-Nafis hospital.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The attacks were endemic of the low-scale but deadly violence that persists across Iraq on a near-daily basis, although violence has dropped dramatically across the country since 2007, when the country teetered on the brink of civil war. Some officials have warned of an increase in attacks as the U.S. withdraws all of its 33,000 troops from Iraq by the end of the year.