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Iraq death toll escalates before U.S. withdrawal

Men on Thursday carry the coffin of a relative killed in the Shiite district in Baghdad, after a bomb had ripped through a crowded market a day earlier.

Associated Press

Men on Thursday carry the coffin of a relative killed in the Shiite district in Baghdad, after a bomb had ripped through a crowded market a day earlier.

BAGHDAD — The bombing of a Baghdad bus station Thursday pushed the death toll from a weeklong series of blasts near Shiite targets to about 200, calling into question Iraq's ability to provide security as U.S. combat troops slowly withdraw from cities.

The wave of attacks is undermining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's declaration of a "great victory" in the U.S. pullout from urban areas by Tuesday's deadline. He has declared it a national holiday to be marked with celebrations.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, has pinned his re-election hopes largely on security gains that have driven violence to wartime lows. Elections are seven months away.

Much of his rhetoric has focused on Tuesday's date, part of a security agreement that calls for American forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

On Thursday, a bombing at a bus station in a Shiite neighborhood in southwest Baghdad killed at least seven people and wounded 31, police said. Another three bombs and a mortar strike killed two others around the capital. Nine American soldiers were wounded in two bombings against a convoy in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said. And a bombing killed a man in the northern city of Mosul.

That left the death toll since Saturday at about 200.

A U.S. commander in Iraq said he expected violence ahead of the withdrawal, but was optimistic the brutal attacks of the past would not resume.

Oil companies

plan return to Iraq

More than three decades after they were booted by Saddam Hussein, international oil companies are poised to bid on a slice of the country's vast crude reserves. Iraq needs expertise to develop its dilapidated oil and gas industry. ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, the China National Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and Russia's Lukoil among others have been asked to put up $2.6 billion toward what could be a $16 billion payoff.

Iraq death toll escalates before U.S. withdrawal 06/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:50pm]

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