Bombs kill 2 in attacks against Iraqi forces

By SAAD ABDUL-KADIR | August 25, 2011 | 1:50 PM EDT

Friends and relatives of Ali Saleh, 25, load his coffin onto a vehicle during his funeral procession in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. A senior Iraqi official from the ruling Dawaa party members has escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb planted late Wednesday outside his home in Zaafariniya neighborhood of Baghdad. The blast killed Salah, one of his bodyguards. (AP Photo / Hadi Mizban)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Bombs killed two people in attacks in two major Iraqi cities Thursday in the latest strike against Iraqi security forces as U.S. troops prepare to leave.

In the first attack, a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi army checkpoint in eastern Mosul, police said. One soldier died in the afternoon blast in the city that was once an al-Qaida hotbed.

Al-Qaida's footprint recently has shrunk in Mosul, located 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, but the Iraqi wing of the terror group remains focused on thwarting Iraq's government and security forces.

Several hours later, in Baghdad, a car bomb killing one passer-by and wounded 17 other people as an Iraqi army convoy drove by al-Mustansiriya University in a Shiite neighborhood.

A Baghdad policeman said 11 soldiers were among the wounded. Cars parked along the street were also damaged in Thursday's explosion.

The casualties were confirmed by a medic at nearby al-Kindi hospital.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Violence has dropped across Iraq since the days when the country teetered on the brink of civil war just a few years ago, but deadly attacks still happen nearly every day. Iraqi security forces are often targeted by insurgents trying to exploit weaknesses as U.S. troops prepare to leave the country by the end of December, as required under a 2008 security agreement.

However, U.S. and Iraqi officials are negotiating whether to keep some American troops in Iraq next year to help bring stability to its government and security forces.