BAGHDAD -- Suicide car bombers struck on opposite sides of Baghdad and at a police station near the Syrian border yesterday in attacks apparently intended to show the resilience of al-Qaida-inspired militants in the face of a U.S. troop buildup and opposition from some of their former allies.
At least 59 Iraqis were killed or found dead in those attacks and others, including a journalist. A U.S. soldier and a British soldier were also reported killed, pushing the four-year U.S. military death toll past 3,500.
In a rare televised interview, radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr blamed the U.S. presence for Iraq's persistent bloodshed and called for "cultural resistance" against Western influences. But he reached out to moderate Sunni Arabs, saying they share a common enemy in the extremists who bomb Sunnis and Shiites.
U.S. commanders, under growing pressure in Iraq and in Washington to show results, have repeatedly warned that militants will seek to inflict maximum damage before September, when U.S. military officials in Iraq are due to submit an assessment of the troop buildup to Congress.
In the day's worst attack, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden truck at the police headquarters in Rabia, about 70 miles northwest of Mosul near the border with Syria, the local police chief said. The blast collapsed the building, killing nine people, including at least five policemen, and injuring 27 others, police and hospital officials said.
U.S. officials think insurgents are striking in the Sunni Arab-dominated region around Mosul as U.S.-led forces focus on stamping out violence in Baghdad and surrounding areas.
In Baghdad, where thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi forces have been sent since mid-February, two suicide car bombers struck within minutes in the western Abu Ghraib area. The U.S. military said at least four people were killed and five injured.
The blasts, about four blocks apart, destroyed a Shiite mosque and heavily damaged a nearby Sunni one, the military said in a statement.
Across town, a suicide bomber blew up a minibus at a checkpoint to get into Sadr City, killing eight people and injuring 14, police and hospital officials said.
The U.S. soldier was killed and two others were wounded Wednesday when a roadside bomb exploded during combat operations in southwestern Baghdad, the military said yesterday. At least 3,501 U.S. troops have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.