As U.S. forces in Iraq made another attempt to regain Fallouja from rebel hands, a chain of car bombs exploded today in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, killing at least 32 people and wounding about 100.
The U.S. military also announced today that two soldiers were killed Sunday by small arms fire at a checkpoint in Baghdad. The soldiers' deaths, who were not identified, brings to 1,055 the number of military members who have died since the war against Iraq began March 2003, according to the Defense Department. No other details on the deaths have been made available yet.
The explosions in Baghdad today left hulks of charred cars and scattered body parts along the streets. Insurgents have used car bombings in recent weeks more frequently. They are hoping that the rising death toll and spreading violence can disrupt democratic elections planned for early next year.
Two bombs were detonated in central Baghdad roughly within an hour. The first explosion was about 8:45 a.m. near major hotels and outside the heavily guarded Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government is located. Authorities said 21 people were killed in that blast.
"I was thrown 10 meters away and hit the wall," Wissam Mohammed, 30, told the Associated Press after receiving treatment at Yarmouk Hospital for a broken hand.
Shortly afterward, a second car bomb blew up in Baghdad, killing at least six people, authorities said, amid plumes of thick black smoke.
Another bomb exploded in Mosul today, about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad. A bystander was killed and 11 were injured, officials said.
As the car bombers struck, U.S. warplanes pounded insurgents early this morning in Fallouja, killing at least 11 people, according to hospital officials. The latest strike, part of a broader campaign to drive out insurgents from key cities, came one day after U.S. and Iraqi forces declared that they had regained control over the rebel stronghold of Samarra.
U.S. and Iraqi officials said Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, would be the first in a series of intensive military thrusts aimed at quelling resistance in rebel hot spots so that national elections can be conducted safely and with maximum Iraqi participation.
It remains unknown whether Iraqi security forces can maintain control over Samarra after U.S. forces withdraw, beginning this week. After a U.S. offensive last fall, rebels reasserted themselves, making Samarra once again a place American troops avoided.
Times staff writers Thomas S. Mulligan and Edmund Sanders contributed to this report from Baghdad. Times wire services also contributed.