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Iraq Steps Up Security Ahead Of US City Withdrawal

This article is more than 11 years old.

Iraqi security forces bolstered checkpoints and banned motorcycles from the streets of Baghdad as they prepared Sunday for more violence before this week's withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Baghdad and other cities and towns.

Despite the increased checks, a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. convoy in eastern Baghdad wounded six bystanders. It was unclear if anyone in the convoy was injured, police said.

A car bomb also exploded in the parking lot of a police academy in western Baghdad, killing one police officer and wounding six others, police said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Insurgents were apparently taking advantage of a major sandstorm that blanketed Baghdad and reduced visibility to just a few yards in some places. The sandstorm sent dozens of people to hospitals with breathing problems and caused the Baghdad airport to close.

The airport closure also delayed by one day Iraq's first oil bidding process in over 30 years because it prevented representatives of international oil companies from landing in Baghdad. Iraq had been planning to award eight oil and gas fields to international oil companies for long-term development on Monday and Tuesday.

Police banned all motorcycles from Baghdad's streets until further notice after motorcycles were used last week in three separate attacks that killed more than 100 people - including a June 24 bombing in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City that killed 78 people and wounded more than 100.

More than 250 people have been killed since June 20 in a spate of bombings that have marred Iraqi plans to celebrate the June 30 pullout of U.S. troops from cities as part of an agreement that will see all American forces out of the country by the end of 2011.

Iraqi officials have warned people to stay away from crowded places and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed for national unity.

There have been concerns that Iraqi forces will not be able to provide adequate security after U.S. combat troops completely pull out. Over the weekend, few if any of the 133,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq were visible in its cities, as most already pulled out of urban centers in recent weeks. They have assembled in large bases outside urban centers and will continue to conduct combat operations in rural areas and near the border.
Associated Press Writer Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report.

This program aired on June 28, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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