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Bombings Kill at Least 36 in Iraq

At least 36 Iraqis died Tuesday in bombings, officials said, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad. Separately, the U.S. military announced the deaths of six American soldie
( [email protected] ) Dec 26, 2006 02:05 PM EST

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (AP) -- At least 36 Iraqis died Tuesday in bombings, officials said, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad. Separately, the U.S. military announced the deaths of six American soldiers.

The three coordinated car bombs in western Baghdad injured at least 55 people, a doctor at Yarmouk hospital, where the victims were taken, said on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns. The attacks occurred in a mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhood.

In separate attacks, a bomb exploded in a central Baghdad market, killing four people and wounding 15, police said. Two roadside bombs targeted an Iraqi police patrol in an eastern neighborhood of the capital, killing four policemen and injuring 12 people.

In Kirkuk, 180 miles north of the Iraqi capital, a roadside bomb killed three civilians - including an 8-year-old girl - and wounded six other people, police said.

The U.S. military on Tuesday announced the deaths of six more American soldiers, pushing the U.S. military death toll since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to at least 2,977 - four more than the number killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The milestone came with a military announcement that three soldiers had been killed Monday. Three more service members were killed Tuesday in roadside bombings near Baghdad, the military said.

President Bush has said that the Iraq war is part of the United States' post-Sept. 11 approach to threats abroad. Going on the offense against enemies before they could harm Americans meant removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, pursuing members of al-Qaida and seeking regime change in Iraq, Bush has said.

There has been no direct evidence of links between Saddam Hussein's regime and the Sept. 11 attacks. Democratic leaders have said the Bush administration has gotten the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, detracting from efforts against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

The AP count of those U.S. military members killed in Iraq includes at least seven military civilians. Prior to the deaths announced Tuesday, the AP count was 15 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday. At least 2,377 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

American troops fought gunmen in a Shiite militia stronghold in east Baghdad on Tuesday, witnesses said.

Fighters loyal to the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were engaged in the clashes with U.S. forces in and near Sadr City, an official in al-Sadr's office said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. There was no immediate word on casualties.

British soldiers were on alert for reprisals a day after they raided a police station in the southern city of Basra, killing seven gunmen in an effort to stop renegade Iraqi officers from executing their prisoners.

"We fully expect more attacks on our bases and on Basra stations, but that's nothing out of the ordinary," Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a military spokesman, said Tuesday. "But this is part of a long-term rehabilitation of the Iraqi police service, to make it more effective and more accountable, and ultimately provide better security for the people of Basra."

After the British stormed the police station, they removed 127 prisoners, who showed evidence of torture, then evacuated the building before blowing it up, he said.

Burbridge had previously said only 76 prisoners were in the station, but later said soldiers miscounted the prisoners because the operation was done under cover of darkness.

Some 800 of the British military's 7,200 troops in Iraq were involved in the operation, he said.

A spokesman for Iraq's defense minister said Monday that the Iraqi interior and defense ministries approved the Basra operation, but some members of the Basra provincial council said they were not notified.

"We object to the way the operation was conducted... There was no need to bring in such a huge number of forces and break down the station," council member Hakim al-Maiyahi told The Associated Press.

Burbridge acknowledged the council members' concerns, but said British officials had alerted the provincial governor, Mohammed al-Waili, who approved the operation.

"He told us it was the right thing - the way forward. He supported our activity," Burbridge said.

Al-Waili refused to comment on the matter.

Christians attended Christmas services in Baghdad and northern Iraq, home to most of Iraq's 800,000 Christians. Some in Baghdad stayed home on Monday, however, fearing violence.

Christians are on the fringes of the conflict, which mostly involves Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs, but they have been targeted by Islamic militants.

"I hope next year will bring good things and unite all Iraqis because there is no difference between Christians and Muslims," said Abu Fadi, a worshipper who does not use his Christian name because he fears for his safety. "May God bring relief from this."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.