Baghdad, Iraq — In the first surge of violence since Iraq's politicians agreed on a new prime minister, eight car bombs struck Baghdad on Monday, an onslaught unusual not only for the number of explosions but also because none of them was triggered by a suicide attacker.
Police said the use of remote controls to set off the bombs differentiated them from the suicide explosions that Sunni Muslim insurgents often favored and suggested that the blasts were intended as warnings to the new government - though from whom was unclear. No one claimed responsibility.
Police said the explosions killed at least eight people and wounded more than 70, a surprisingly low toll, which they said also was due to the lack of suicide attackers.
None of the blasts targeted American troops, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman. At least some of them appeared aimed at passing Iraqi police patrols.
Johnson said car bombs had averaged 15 a week throughout Iraq in the past six weeks. He didn't have figures for Baghdad alone.
Two incidents accounted for most of the dead Monday. Five people were killed and another 25 were injured when car bombs detonated at the front and back gates of al-Mustansiriya University near Baghdad's Sadr City district, Ministry of Interior officials said. The first exploded as a police convoy passed, police said, while the second seemed intended to harm passers-by.
Three other people died when a car bomb exploded as a convoy of SUVs passed, probably holding foreigners, police said. They didn't identify the occupants of the vehicles further. At least 20 people were wounded.
Two parked cars exploded in central Baghdad, injuring 15 civilians, and two others exploded near the al-Ghaeer Bridge in eastern Baghdad, wounding four Iraqi soldiers. A homemade bomb hidden in a car in southern Baghdad also exploded, wounding nine people.
The explosions came two days after Iraq's elected leaders broke a four-month impasse and agreed on who should fill the top government posts. They named Jawad al-Maliki, a member of the largely Shiite Muslim Dawa Islamic Party who's known for his sectarian rhetoric, as prime minister. And they kept Jalal Talabani, the current interim president, in his post for another four years.
During the impasse, tensions between Iraq's Shiite majority and Sunni minority escalated, and American officials began warning that Shiite militia groups had become more of a threat to stability than the Sunni-based insurgency.
Iraqi leaders began meeting to fill more Cabinet posts. Most important, U.S. and Iraqi leaders agree, is who will head the ministries of interior, which controls the security forces, and defense, which controls the army.
Sunnis charge that both ministries have been infiltrated by Shiite militias who have used them as cover for killing Sunni civilians