19 killed in Iraq bomb attacks
Baghdad - A suicide car bomber on Monday detonated an explosives-packed vehicle near a prison north of Baghdad, killing up to 19 people, while another attack cost two more lives, Iraqi security officials said.
The 08:00 car bombing at the main entrance of Hout prison in Taji, about 25km from Baghdad, came as family members gathered to visit inmates, they said.
An interior ministry official said 19 people were killed and 28 wounded, while a defence ministry official put the toll at 12 dead and 26 wounded.
The interior ministry official said the bodies of nine victims - most of them prison guards - were severely burned, while the four others killed were civilians.
Bomber blew self up on highway
The interior ministry official also said two people were killed and four wounded by a magnetic "sticky bomb" on a vehicle in the Mansur area in western Baghdad.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
Justice ministry spokesperson Haidar al-Saadi said that six of the dead in Taji were police working under the ministry who were on their way to work at the prison.
The bomber "blew himself up on the highway near the prison, where family members of prisoners were gathering" before visiting inmates, Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta said.
The deaths raise the toll from a week of surging violence across Iraq to 59.
On Sunday, bomb and gun attacks killed four people and wounded nine while the previous day 16 people were killed and 20 wounded in bombings and shootings in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, about 20 kilometres west of the capital.
Three bombs exploded in the southern port city of Basra last Thursday, killing 19 people, including high-ranking army and police officers, and wounding at least 65.
And five people were killed in attacks in the disputed northern Iraq city of Kirkuk on November 22.
‘Turbulence’ on the security front
Violence has declined nationwide since its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 258 people were killed in October, according to official figures.
General Lloyd Austin, the top US commander in Iraq, has warned of "turbulence" on the security front as American forces depart and militant groups including al-Qaeda seek to take advantage of the vacuum.
"I think as we leave, you can expect to see some turbulence in security initially, and that's because you'll see various elements try to increase their freedom of movement and freedom of action," Austin told reporters in Baghdad.
He specifically pointed to al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iranian-backed militias as threats.
American troops are set to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, bringing to a close an almost nine-year war that has left thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.