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U.S.: Iraq suicide attacks rising during Ramadan

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- With the Islamic holy month of Ramadan under way, insurgent attacks in Iraq have risen in the past two weeks, particularly in Baghdad, a U.S. military commander said Wednesday.

"This has been a tough week," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said. "This week's suicide attacks were at their highest level of any given week."

About half of those attacks targeted security forces, Caldwell said.

He said around 50 percent of car bombings were suicide strikes, blaming "terrorists" and "illegal armed groups" for attacks during Ramadan, which began Saturday.

But Caldwell said murders and executions were the largest cause of civilian deaths in Baghdad and attributed them to sectarian fighting between Sunnis and Shiites.

Hours after Caldwell's comments, gunmen killed 10 worshippers and wounded another 11 as they headed to a Sunni mosque in Baghdad, police said.

The attack happened at Al-Mushahada Mosque in the northern Hurriya neighborhood during evening prayers. During Ramadan, it is customary for Muslims to go out for evening prayers after breaking their fasts.

In another likely sign of sectarianism, police said Wednesday they discovered 17 unidentified bodies in the past 24 hours, putting the total number of corpses found in the Iraqi capital this week at 77.

The bodies bore signs of torture, with hands bound and gunshot wounds to the head, police said.

Also Wednesday, a bomb planted in an Iraqi police officer's car exploded in Baghdad, killing the officer and a civilian, Iraqi emergency police said. The explosion occurred on central Baghdad's Rasheed Street as the officer was heading to work.

Car bombers also struck two neighborhoods in the capital Wednesday, police said. One attack in southern Baghdad killed five civilians and wounded eight, police said. The other wounded two civilians in northern Baghdad.

U.S.-led raid kills 8 in Baquba

Also Wednesday, U.S.-led coalition forces killed four suspected terrorists and four civilians in a raid in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, a military statement said.

The military said troops were "targeting a terrorist tied to extremist leaders" of al Qaeda in Iraq in the Diyala and Salaheddin provinces.

"Coalition forces, through their Iraqi interpreters, announced they were in the area, whereupon the shooting ceased from most locations except the target building," the statement said.

Caldwell said the troops announced their presence, with the intent for people in the house to come out peacefully. But that didn't happen, and "an escalation of force" occurred, he said.

Coalition troops killed two of the suspects outside the building and then called in airstrikes because of heavy enemy fire from inside, the military said.

The military statement said forces found the bodies of two other suspects and four women inside the building. Two additional suspected terrorists were wounded, given medical treatment and then detained, the military said. Another woman was wounded and treated.

Other developments

  • Seven in 10 Iraqis favor a commitment by U.S.-led forces in Iraq to withdraw in a year, according to a survey by the University of Maryland. (Full story)
  • A U.S. soldier and a Marine were killed Monday in combat in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said Wednesday. It was undisclosed whether the deaths occurred during the same or in different incidents.
  • Another U.S. soldier died Wednesday from wounds he received when his patrol was attacked in southern Baghdad, the military said. The number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war stands at 2,702, according to military reports. Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the conflict.
  • Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq's parliament debated Tuesday the creation of autonomous regions, namely the draft federalism bill proposed by the country's most powerful political bloc, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Under federalism, Iraq's government would be decentralized -- and Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs would have separate autonomous areas. Sunnis have vehemently opposed the concept of autonomous regions, largely because the nation's oil industry is in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south. (Full story)
  • CNN's Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

    Iraqis inspect bodies Wednesday at a hospital in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.


    • Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
    • Interactive: Sectarian divide
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