BAGHDAD — Three explosions killed at least 16 Iraqis on Monday, including 14 who were in a bus to a government ministry and an Iraqi soldier at a heavily guarded checkpoint leading to the U.S.-controlled International Zone.
A magnetic bomb blew up the bus, which was shuttling 17 women to their jobs at Iraq's Ministry of Trade. The assault, at 7:30 a.m. in east Baghdad, killed 13 women, one of whom was pregnant, and a child. The bus driver and three others were wounded.
Police officers at the scene described a fiery explosion that prevented much of a rescue, though they managed to pull some survivors through shattered windows.
The wounded and dead were taken to Baghdad's Kindi Hospital. An ambulance worker said it was impossible to differentiate the bodies.
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"They are innocent people," said Majid Ali, who witnessed the bus explosion and tried to put out the fires with blankets and rugs. "I don't know how these criminals dare to do such a crime. Those who committed it are inhuman."
Um Ihab, 40, is the aunt of twin victims in the bombing. The twin who survived watched her sister die, then lost consciousness herself. When she came to, her aunt quoted her as saying: "With whom will I go to the market? With whom will I go out?"
The checkpoint bombing appeared to be carried out by a mentally unstable woman wearing a suicide vest, an Iraqi army official said. Her bomb detonated about an hour after the bus attack at a site a few hundred yards from Iraq's parliament. Parliament is considering a controversial compact with the U.S. that calls for the exit of American forces in three years.
The U.S. military and Iraqi officials issued conflicting casualty reports from that incident. The U.S. said the bombing killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded nine others; the Iraqi police said that five people were killed, two of them soldiers.
Iraqi police and the U.S. military didn't say whether the violence was linked to parliament's talks about the American withdrawal agreement.
A third bombing targeted a police patrol in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood about 11 a.m. near the Technology University. It killed one person and wounded five, including three police officers. Later in the day, a mortar round struck Baghdad's southern outskirts, wounding six people, police said.
The U.S. military has tracked a major decrease in attacks in Baghdad over the past year — about 85 percent since October 2007 — and it thinks that Iraqis are turning against the sectarian violence that rocked the country in 2006 and 2007.
"Coalition forces are convinced that today's horrific acts will not deter the government of Iraq from deciding their own future through peaceful means, and not acts of barbaric terrorism designed to intimidate the will of the government," the U.S. said Monday in a statement.
Parliament is expected to vote on the security pact by Wednesday. It would replace a United Nations mandate allowing the U.S. to conduct military operations in the country, which expires Dec. 31.
A bloc led by renegade cleric Muqtada al Sadr opposes the security pact, saying that the U.S. should leave immediately. Other parties want the government to accept amendments. Their request can't be considered under Iraqi law because the Cabinet has approved the pact, making it a final agreement that the parliament can accept or reject but not change.
Ashton reports for The Modesto (Calif.) Bee. Kadhim is a McClatchy special correspondent. Special correspondent Jenan Hussein contributed to this article.