Car bomb in northern Iraq kills 18

BAGHDAD The attacks were part of a spike in violence in Iraq after weeks of relative calm.

The bomb in Mosul exploded between the government headquarters and a market, where the governor of surrounding Nineveh province, Duraid Kashmola, was inspecting damage from an earlier rocket attack, police said. Kashmola said that 18 people had been killed and 60 wounded.

Thursday's other attack in Karmah occurred only days before U.S. troops are to hand over security responsibility for Anbar to the Iraqis, marking a major milestone in the campaign to lower the U.S. profile in an area that had once been center-stage of the war.

Col. Fawzi Fraih, civil defense director of Anbar province, said the sheiks were meeting with Americans when the attack occurred in the town of Karmah, about 20 miles west of Baghdad.

Fraih said 12 people had been killed and 11 wounded. A police officer in the town said 15 were killed and 12 wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't supposed to release information to media.

The U.S. military would not confirm whether Americans were inside the building during the attack, the third against a municipal government meeting in Iraq this week. U.S. and Iraqi troops rushed to the bombing site and sealed off the area, local residents said by telephone.

The media office for Anbar province said the dead included the town's administrative director and at least two chiefs of major Sunni tribes in the area.

The U.S. military says violence in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level in more than four years, but attacks are continuing as Sunni and Shiite extremists try to regroup and undermine security gains.

Targets of those attacks have included local administrations which the U.S. and Iraqi authorities have been trying to shore up to maintain the security gains since last year.

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