REPORTING FROM BAGHDAD -- A car bomb and a separate attack by gunmen in Iraq killed at least 20 people Thursday, officials said, and visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden thanked troops for their war service.
At least 13 people were killed and many more wounded when a bomb exploded at a marketplace in Diyala east of Baghdad as morning shoppers began arriving, officials said. Earlier, gunmen had stormed several homes in Buhriz, north of Baghdad, killing at least seven people.
Biden's comments came during a ceremony hosted by the Iraqi government to commemorate the sacrifices of U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces during the war, which began in 2003.
Biden, who was joined by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, said the U.S. takes immense pride in what American troops have done in Iraq.
“Because of you and the work that those of you in uniform have done, we are now able to end this war,” Biden told hundreds of American and Iraqi service members assembled at Al Faw palace.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year is required by a 2008 agreement between the two countries. About 13,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, nowhere near the high of about 170,000.
Some officials from both countries remain concerned about militant organizations and other tensions in Iraq. But Iraq and the U.S. failed to come to an agreement on keeping a small American military presence in the country.
Maliki said during the ceremony Thursday that the withdrawal marks a historic victory for the previous negotiations and sets the stage for a new relationship between the two countries.
“I congratulate the Iraqi people, and the members of the armed forces, on this day,” Maliki said. “I congratulate all the Iraqi people on behalf of the government on the occasion of regaining full sovereignty.”
-- Raheem Salman and Times wire services