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Suicide bombers strike Baghdad shopping distr -

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PETER CAVE: In Iraq, suicide bombers have struck again in one of Baghdad's busiest shopping
districts. Authorities there say at least 50 civilians are dead and many more are injured. The
attacks are the worst in more than a month and they provide further evidence of a resurgence of
deadly violence this year.

Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: It was only a few months ago when everyone from the Iraqi Government to the Bush
administration was hailing relative calm in often-violent Baghdad.

They put it down to the US troop surge, and a more even power balance between sectarian militias.
But today's twin strike is a reminder that the power to maim and kill is rarely far from the
surface.

The BBC's Hugh Sykes is in Baghdad.

HUGH SYKES: This is pointless, brutal, callous, foul, mass murder. I say pointless because there's
no obvious target in this area. This is a residential shopping area in the middle of a Baghdad
district called Karada.

I know it well. I was there yesterday evening and had been there before and in my mind's eye I can
now see the crossroads where the explosions took place. Over on one side there's lots of clothes
shops, there's stalls with clothes hanging out on rails, on the pavement. Over on the other side
there's a café with old men, mostly middle-aged men like me, sitting smoking hubble-bubble, sitting
at plastic tables on plastic chairs.

And suddenly, early evening this evening, it's a lovely spring evening, people are out walking,
they're out shopping, enjoying the beginning of the Friday, Saturday weekend, there's an explosion
that kills several people. People rush towards it to see if they help. There's another explosion
and that accounts for the very high death toll.

SIMON SANTOW: Many of the victims are reportedly teenagers and young adults. Their death comes on
the day the US military announced it was withdrawing 2,000 troops from the Iraqi capital. That's
part of the phased pull-out of some of the more than 30,000 extra soldiers who've been in Iraq
since last year to try to halt sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.

Professor William Maley is director of the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian
National University.

WILLIAM MALEY: Well I think what bombings of this sort indicate is just how violent and unsettled a
situation that in Iraq still is. And I think it's important to appreciate this, given some of the
gushy comments that have been made about achievements for the surge in the period since it was
commenced by the United States.

The effect has been, looking at the country broadly, to reduce the frequency of bombings on the
scale of the October 2002 Bali bombings, from something like once every 2.5 days to once every six
days.

From the point of view of people living within Iraq, this is still an extremely unsettled and
alarming situation and I don't think we should fall into the error of concluding that the situation
has been normalised in any degree.

PETER CAVE: Professor William Maley from the Australian National University, speaking to Simon
Santow.