Army Day bomb attacks kill 14: Iraqi officials

( AFP )- A spate of bombings, including a suicide blast which two Iraqi soldiers tried to prevent by jumping on the attacker, rocked Baghdad on Sunday as it marked Army Day, officials and the US military said.

At least 14 people, among them six security force members, were killed and 32 wounded in the attacks, Iraqi officials said.

The suicide attack targeted soldiers in central Karrada neighbourhood as they were receiving gifts from a civilian organisation to mark Army Day, an official holiday marking the 87th anniversary of the founding of the army.

Interior and defence ministry officials said at least nine people were killed in the suicide attack, and at least 17 more wounded.

Among the dead were six members of the security forces, hospital officials said. Seven police and soldiers were wounded, along with 10 civilians.

US military spokesman Lieutenant Steven Stover said that, according to witnesses, two Iraqi soldiers were killed when they flung themselves onto the attacker as he detonated his explosives.

"They absorbed some of the blast. They saved a lot of lives," Stover told AFP.

"The selfless sacrifice of the two Iraqi (soldiers) should not be forgotten," he said in a later statement. "These two Iraqi martyrs gave their lives so that others might live."

An AFP photographer who witnessed the attack said that the suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a group of soldiers who were singing and chanting outside the building where the event had taken place.

"They were dancing when the attacker blew himself up," he said. "Then the Iraqi soldiers and police opened fire wildly. Everyone fled."

In another lethal attack in Baghdad, at least four people were killed and 11 wounded in a vehicle bomb explosion in the mixed northeastern district of Al- Qahira , security officials said.

The attack took place near a restaurant at around 1 pm (1000 GMT), a witness said.

"As soon as I heard the explosion, I ran to the site near the popular Al- Qahira restaurant," said the witness, Mohammed Ali, 31.

"I saw a dead policeman. The vehicle in which the bomb was placed, a minibus, was destroyed completely. The explosion caused the glass in nearby shops to shatter."

In a third attack, one person was killed and four wounded when a series of four improvised bombs were detonated in the Al- Nahda vehicle market in the city centre, police said.

The latest deaths follow a suicide attack in the Iraqi capital on Tuesday that targeted mourners at a funeral, killing at least 30 and wounding 38.

On Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the restive Iraqi city of Baquba , killing at least four people and wounding 16 in an attack aimed at an anti-Qaeda patrol, police said.

The recent spate of attacks comes despite a drop in violence across Iraq in recent months, with US military officials recording a 62 percent fall in all types of attacks since June.

On December 4, the leader of an Al-Qaeda-linked group in Iraq warned in an Internet audio message of renewed attacks which he said would target every "apostate and traitor" and would continue until January 29.

The term apostate usually refers to members of the Iraqi security forces.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, said a new unit called the Al- Siddiq Brigades had been formed for the assault.

This attack involves bombings aimed at the "apostates" and members of the "Awakening Councils" grouping Sunni tribes that have joined the fight against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, it added.

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