Car bomb strikes Shiite worshippers in Baghdad

.BAGHDAD (AP) – A bomb in a parked car struck worshippers heading to a Shiite mosque Sunday in Baghdad, killing at least nine people as Iraqis celebrated a Muslim holiday, while the death toll rose to 18 in a coordinated suicide truck bombing and ambush north of the capital.

Relatives and rescue workers pulled bodies from under piles of concrete bricks and rubble in the Sunni city of Samarra, where a suicide truck bomber detonated his explosives late Saturday. Guards had opened fire before he could reach the targeted police headquarters.

Gunmen drove up and fought with police immediately after the blast, which tore through nearby buildings. At least 18 people were killed and 27 wounded, police said.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks in Baghdad and Samarra, but they bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq militants who had promised an offensive during Ramadan to undermine U.S.-Iraqi claims of success in quelling the violence in the capital with an 8-month-old security operation.

The fasting month ended this weekend with the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival that began on Friday for Sunnis and Saturday for Shiites.

Also killed on Sunday were a U.S. soldier struck by a roadside bomb during combat operations in southern Baghdad and an Iraqi journalist who was shot while on assignment for The Washington Post elsewhere in the capital.

Salih Saif Aldin, 32, who wrote under the name Salih Dehema for security reasons, was killed in the neighborhood of Sadiyah, according to a statement from the newspaper. It said details of the incident were still unclear.

The car bombing in Baghdad tore through a minibus that was to carry passengers to the revered Imam al-Kadhim shrine in the northwestern Kazimiyah district. A 9-year-old boy and two women were among those killed. Police banned cars from the area until further notice, an officer said.

Earlier Sunday, police found a booby-trapped minibus parked in the same area but were able to detonate it without casualties, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

While Baghdad and cities to the north have faced a series of deadly attacks throughout Ramadan, the numbers have been relatively low and dropped significantly with the start of Eid al-Fitr, during which Iraqis visit the graves of relatives and pack into parks to celebrate the end of a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.

The deaths reported in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, raised the number of people killed or found dead on Saturday from a low of four to 22. That number was 16 on Friday, a dramatic drop from the 50 deaths reported a day earlier.