Explosions tore through two police stations Thursday in the western Iraqi city of Fallouja, leaving at least 16 people dead, and a blast in a northern city killed two U.S. soldiers in the latest reminders of this country’s fragile security situation.
The attacks came on the heels of other large blasts this week that targeted Iraqi and U.S. security forces and left dozens of people dead.
With U.S. combat troops scheduled to begin pulling out of Iraqi cities and towns early next year, the bombings were an ominous sign of what Iraqi security forces may face on their own after the drawdown.
Iraq’s three-member Presidency Council on Thursday formally ratified a Status of Forces Agreement that mandates the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from population centers by June 30 and from the country by the end of 2011. Iraq’s parliament approved the pact Nov. 27. Ratification by Iraq’s president and two vice presidents was necessary for it to take effect Jan. 1, after the United Nations mandate governing the U.S. troop presence expires.
U.S. military leaders have urged caution in withdrawing forces, saying that insurgents are still a threat despite security gains in the last year. That danger is likely to be amplified until the Jan. 31 provincial elections as insurgents, seeking to undermine Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s U.S.-backed government, try to derail the vote.
The latest attacks targeted a U.S. patrol in Mosul, 225 miles north of Baghdad, and two police stations in Fallouja, 35 miles west of the capital.
Police said at least 16 people died in Fallouja, including six police officers, and more than 100 were wounded. But Dr. Majid Ahmed said 18 bodies were taken to the Fallouja hospital. Several buildings were destroyed by the blasts, the worst to hit the former insurgent stronghold in months. Police declared a curfew in the city.
Abbas Alwan, who witnessed one of the blasts, said a suicide bomber drove a truck at high speed toward the police station and rammed its main gate. Alwan said there was an elementary school next to the police station and that many of the injured were children.
“I saw a number of dead bodies,” he said. “I didn’t count them.”
In Mosul, the U.S. military said a suicide bomber detonated his car near an American patrol, killing two soldiers and wounding nine Iraqi civilians. At least 4,209 American troops have died in the Iraq war since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to the independent website icasualties.org.
Special correspondents in Mosul, Fallouja, Ramadi and Baghdad contributed to this report.