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Thu 2 Oct 2008 10:29 AM

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At least 20 people killed in Eid bomb blasts

UPDATE 1: Twin Iraqi suicide bombings target worshippers celebrating end of Ramadan.

At least 20 people killed in Eid bomb blasts
An Iraqi soldier stands guard as thousands of Iraqi families in Baghdad celebrate Eid Al-Fitr. (AFP)

Twin suicide bombings near Shiite mosques in Iraq's capital on Thursday killed at least 20 people as worshippers celebrated Al-Fitr feast which follows the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, officials said.

Another six people were shot dead in an ambush in a restive city north of Baghdad, they said.

Security officials said a suicide bomber blew himself up when he was being frisked outside a mosque in Jadida, a Shiite district of southern Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding 30.

In the second attack, a bomber slammed his explosives-filled car into an Iraqi military armoured vehicle at a checkpoint near a mosque in the nearby district of Zafaraniyah, the officials said.

The blast killed eight people, including four Iraqi soldiers, and wounded 10 worshippers.

Six people were also killed when gunmen opened fire at a minibus near the city of Baquba, the capital of the province of Diyala, a security official said.

Diyala is one of the most dangerous provinces of Iraq and insurgents have managed to carry out attacks there despite heavy military crackdowns by security forces.

On Wednesday, four people were killed and 15 wounded in a car bomb attack at a mosque in Balad, north of Baghdad, as devotees gathered for prayers, the US military said.

The bomb exploded in the car park of Sayid Mohammed mosque in Balad in the Sunni province of Salaheddin, the military said, adding that there was no damage to the mosque.

The latest wave of attacks came as the majority of Shiites in Iraq celebrated Eid, a day after Sunni Muslims began to mark the end of the dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan.

Iraq has seen a downward trend in violence since the middle of last year, although bloodshed spiked in March and April during clashes between Shiite militiamen and US-led security forces.

In September, a total of 440 Iraqis were killed in militia and insurgent violence: 359 civilians, 26 Iraqi soldiers and 55 policemen, according to figures from various ministries.

The death toll was little changed from 431 in August.

US and Iraqi officials claim that violence in the country is at a four-year low, but recent weeks have seen a slight spike in deadly attacks.

The first 21 days of Ramadan were the quietest fasting period in the Iraqi capital in three years, Major General Jeffery Hammond, the US commander for Baghdad, said last week.

He said the period saw just 60 attacks compared with 600 in 2007 and 800 in 2006 - the year when sectarian violence erupted across Iraq.

However, Hammond said Baghdad was now witnessing "4.2 attacks per day, 89 percent less than in 2006 and 83 less than in 2007."

"There has been a slight increase of violence in September," he said, adding that this was always the trend during Ramadan. But the rise had not changed the overall declining trend.

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