MOSUL // Bombs in Baghdad and northern Iraq killed at least 41 people and wounded more than 80 today, police said, just over a week after US troops handed security in city centres to local forces. Two suicide attacks in Tal Afar, a town 420km northwest of Baghdad that is mainly home to minority Turkmen, killed 34 people and wounded 60. One suicide bomber detonated an explosives vest, followed by another suicide attack just as people responded to the first, said a police official in Nineveh province, where groups like al Qa'eda have taken advantage of tensions between Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds to maintain a campaign of violence.
In Baghdad, seven people were killed and 20 were wounded by two bomb blasts in a market in Sadr City, a poor, Shi'ite area of the Iraqi capital. Police said both bombs had been placed among rubbish piles in the popular Sadr City market. The bloodshed following the US-led invasion in 2003 has dropped sharply, but ethnically and religiously mixed Nineveh province in Iraq's north is still wracked by violence.
US officials describe Nineveh and its capital Mosul as a last stronghold for al Qa'eda and other insurgents. The province is also the scene of growing tensions between Arabs and minority Kurds, who controlled Nineveh's government until Arabs took charge in provincial polls in January. On Wednesday evening, two car bombs exploded within minutes of each other in Mosul, killing 14 people and wounding 33.
There has been a steady drumbeat of attacks in the city, many of them targeting Iraqi police and soldiers, since US combat troops withdrew from urban centres on June 30. Such attacks raise questions about whether Iraqi forces can fend off violence as they take the lead role for security. The US pullback from city and town centres last month was a milestone in the plan for a gradual withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.