REPORTING FROM BAGHDAD -- Two bombings near a music store and restaurant in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood of north Baghdad caused dozens of casualties Thursday, less than a week after President Obama announced that all U.S. forces would withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year.
Medical and police officials said 18 people were killed in the twin blasts, among them a soldier and a police officer. At least 37 people were wounded, including seven security personnel. The remaining injured were civilians, among them women and children, the officials said.
The first explosion occurred at a musical instruments store shortly after 7 p.m. As security forces and civilians converged on the scene, the second bomb detonated nearby, police and medical officials said.
"I stood outside my shop and saw burning cars and dead bodies on the ground," Ahmed Jalil, 27, a grocery store owner near the attack site, told the Associated Press. "The situation was miserable and I could see wounded people being loaded on police pickups."
Last Friday’s announcement that the remaining 40,000 U.S. troops would leave Iraq by Dec. 31 came after the White House and the Iraqi government failed to reach an agreement on keeping a small U.S. force behind as trainers.
Leading Republicans denounced the decision, arguing in part that keeping some U.S. troops in Iraq would help preserve the country’s fragile security gains, prevent a resurgence of sectarian and ethnic clashes, and enable continued training of Iraqi forces.
Many Iraqis have also expressed concern over a possible uptick in violence when American soldiers go home. Security has substantially improved in many areas of Iraq since the deadliest days of the insurgency.
In the wake of the pullout announcement, Iraq has seen an uptick in attacks against security personnel, in particular traffic police on patrol, on the streets and at intersections. The assailants have been using silencers and improvised explosive devices.
Since Oct. 19, seven traffic officers have been killed and 20 injured, according to Iraqi police.
-- Raheem Salman
Photo: A U.S. soldier walks past Humvees parked in a courtyard at Camp Liberty in Baghdad in September. U.S. troops are scheduled to pull out of Iraq by year's end. Credit: Mohammed Ameen / Reuters