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Second Baghdad Bombing in 3 Days Leaves Dozens Dead

The bombing, which took place in a market in the Abu Ghraib district, appeared to target a group of Iraqi army officers and other dignitaries who were in the area to attend a national reconciliation conference at the nearby Abu Ghraib municipal building. The conference included army officers and Sunni tribal leaders in the area, according to the New York Times.

First Lieutenant Ahmed Mahmoud, a police official in Abu Ghraib, told Reuters that security officials and schoolchildren were among the dead.

Al-Baghdadiya, an independent Iraqi television station, said two of its journalists were killed. A hospital official told Reuters that a journalist from another station, al-Iraqiya, was wounded in the attack.

An eyewitness said that the attack was carried out by a person wearing a national police uniform, according to the New York Times.

The bombing follows a suicide attack Sunday that killed about 30 people near a police academy in Southern Baghdad.

Together, the two attacks are raising concerns about renewed violence in Baghdad, after a period in which heavy security precautions had reduced the death toll from such bombings.

Also on Tuesday, a suicide car bomber in the al-Hamdaniya district east of Mosul attacked a police patrol, killing three people, including an Iraqi army soldier who was standing near the explosion. Several others were wounded.

While violence has dropped sharply in Iraq since the height of the sectarian and insurgent bloodshed unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, insurgents continue to stage regular attacks, especially in the volatile northern city of Mosul.

Reconciliation among rival political factions is proving even more difficult than combating insurgents. Many factions remain mutually suspicious and hostile after six years of sectarian killing between Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, dominant under Saddam Hussein, and its Shiite majority.

The attacks also come just days after the United States said it would reduce its 140,000-strong troop force before a full withdrawal in 2011, and raise questions about whether local Iraqi forces will be able to stop insurgent bombings.

Also Tuesday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said he does not believe the Iraqi government will ask the U.S. military to remain in the country past 2011.

Gen. Ray Odierno told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he has received no indication that Iraqi leaders want re-negotiate its security agreement to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the deadline to continue fighting insurgents and training security forces.

Progress in many parts of Iraq, particularly around Baghdad and in the south, may make it unnecessary for the U.S. military to stay, he said, but he left the door open to the possibility, saying “never say never.”