x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Car bomb mars Iraqi take over

At least 24 people are killed in Kirkuk in a bomb attack on a market as Iraqis celebrate the withdrawal of US troops.

BAGHDAD // A car bomb exploded in a crowded outdoor market in the northern city of Kirkuk today, killing at least 24 people, police said, a deadly reminder of the challenges facing the Iraqi government even as it celebrated the withdrawal of US combat troops from cities. The bombing marred what had otherwise been a festive day as Iraqis marked what the government decreed National Sovereignty Day. It came hours after four US soldiers were killed in combat on Monday in Baghdad. Despite the continued violence, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki assured Iraqis that government forces taking control of urban areas were more than capable of ensuring security.

"Those who think that Iraqis are not able to protect their country and that the withdrawal of foreign forces will create a security vacuum are committing a big mistake," he said in a nationally televised address. He later appeared at a military parade to mark the day in the walled-off Green Zone in central Baghdad, with soldiers and policemen marching in formation while Iraqi helicopters flew overhead. The withdrawal, which was completed on Monday, was part of a US-Iraqi security pact and marks the first major step toward withdrawing all American forces from the country by Dec 31, 2011. President Barack Obama has said all combat troops will be gone by the end of August 2010.

The car bomb exploded as the vegetable and poultry market was crowded with people shopping for their evening meal, police Brig Gen Sarhat Qadir said. Police and hospital officials gave the death toll and said about 40 people were wounded. It was the latest in a series of bombings and shootings that have killed more than 250 people since June 20, including a truck bombing near Kirkuk that killed 82 people. US and Iraqi officials have warned more violence was likely as suspected insurgents try to undermine confidence in the government in the days surrounding the withdrawal deadline. The top US commander in Iraq said the latest deaths show militants remain a threat but said he was confident Iraqi security forces could face the challenge.

"It reminds me that there are still dangers out there. There are still people out there who do not want the government of Iraq to succeed. They do not want to see a democratic country move forward," Gen Ray Odierno said today at a news conference. *AP