A string of car bomb attacks left at least 17 people dead in Baghdad on Monday, many of them civilians killed by three blasts in one of the city's busiest neighborhoods. Police said 21 people died in other violent incidents nationwide.
The violence occurred as the U.S. military continues to cite the success of the Baghdad security plan, which was launched in February when the first of nearly 30,000 additional American troops arrived in Iraq. Rear Adm. Mark Fox, the security plan's chief spokesman, said Sunday that the overall level of violence in the capital has been steadily declining.
The first two bombs detonated nearly simultaneously just down the street from each other in central Baghdad's Karradah neighborhood, considered one of the city's safest. One targeted an Iraqi police patrol, the other an outdoor market where women browsed aisles of fruit and vegetables. Three police officers and six civilians were killed, and 14 people were injured, police said.
A short time later, a third car bomb exploded in a city plaza less than a mile away, killing three people in an attack that police speculated was linked to the first two. Two of the dead were police officers passing by.
As U.S. soldiers sorted through the rubble left by the blasts, a fourth car bomb detonated next to the U.S.-controlled Green Zone just across the Tigris River. The blast killed four people, some of whom were eating lunch at a popular restaurant.
A fifth blast, caused by a minibus packed with explosives, killed one person in the eastern part of the city, police said.
More than 25 people have been killed by car bombs in Karradah in the past two weeks despite the U.S. military's ramped-up security efforts across the capital. Attacks in Karradah are particularly troubling because of its location in the center of the city and its prominence as a shopping district generally considered to be one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods.
Fox told reporters Sunday that the military is undertaking a "massive effort" to rebuild infrastructure and increase security in commercial districts of Baghdad such as Karradah and nearby Abu Nuwas Street.
"There's a feeling of momentum, of initiative here," he said. "There's definitely a feeling from a security point of view that all of these efforts are beginning to gain traction."
The number of mass-casualty bombings in the capital has declined since the additional troops arrived, according to U.S. military statistics, but smaller-scale violence has persisted.
Police found 17 bodies, considered a key indicator of sectarian violence, in different areas of the capital Monday.
Diplomacy: The State Department said Monday that ambassador-level talks with Iran today in Baghdad will focus solely on the situation in Iraq. The last talks were in May.
Blockade: Residents of Husseiniyah, on the outskirts of northern Baghdad, said American forces had imposed a vehicle ban and tightened a cordon that has left them without access to food. The town has a major presence of Mahdi Army militiamen.
U.S. deaths: The U.S. military reported the deaths of four troops over the weekend. Three soldiers were killed in roadside bombings in Baghdad, south of Baghdad and in the northern city of Samarra. A Marine was killed in Anbar province.
New poll: A majority of Americans, 66 percent, said they want the United States to withdraw some or all troops from Iraq, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll. While 12 percent of Americans said they want more U.S. troops to be sent to Iraq and 15 percent said the number should stay the same, 30 percent said the number of troops should decrease and 36 percent said all troops should be removed. The phone survey of 889 U.S. adults was conducted Friday through Sunday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.