BAGHDAD – Explosions tore through two police stations in the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Thursday, leaving at least 16 people dead, and a blast in a northern city killed two U.S. soldiers in the latest reminders of the country’s fragile security situation.
The attacks followed other large blasts earlier in the week that targeted Iraqi and U.S. security forces and left dozens of people dead. With U.S. combat troops scheduled to begin pulling out of Iraqi cities and towns early next year, the bombings were an ominous sign of what Iraqi security forces might face after the drawdown.
Iraq’s three-member Presidency Council on Thursday formally ratified a Status of Forces Agreement that mandates U.S. combat troops leave population centers by June 30, and the country by the end of 2011. The pact, which Iraq’s parliament approved Nov. 27, needed to be ratified by Iraq’s president and two vice presidents to take effect Jan. 1, when the U.N. mandate governing the U.S. troop presence expires.
U.S. military leaders have urged caution in withdrawing forces, saying that insurgents remain a threat despite security gains in the past year. That danger figures to be amplified in the run-up to Jan. 31 provincial elections as insurgents, seeking to undermine Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s U.S.-backed government, try to derail the vote.
The latest attacks targeted a U.S. patrol in Mosul, about 225 miles north of Baghdad, and two police stations in Fallujah, 35 miles west of the capital.