BAGHDAD, Iraq - A car bomb has killed at least 24 people near a market in the northern city of Kirkuk, police said Tuesday, as Iraqi forces assumed control for security in urban areas.
Tuesday's bombing comes as Iraqis celebrate what the government is calling National Sovereignty Day to mark the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities.
Police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said the explosives-laden car was parked near a crowded market in the city. He said at least 40 people were wounded in the attack. The U.S. military also said four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Baghdad on Monday. It said they died as a "result of combat related injuries."
The two attacks are deadly reminders of the dangers still facing Iraq as Iraqi forces assume more responsibility for their own security.
The withdrawal that was completed on Monday is part of a U.S.-Iraqi security pact and marks the first major step toward withdrawing all American forces from the country by Dec. 31, 2011. President Barack Obama has said all combat troops will be gone by the end of August 2010.
President Jalal Talabani said the day could not have happened without the help of the United States, which invaded Iraq in 2003 and ousted Saddam Hussein — who was later convicted by an Iraqi court and executed in Dec. 2006.
"While we celebrate this day, we express our thanks and gratitude to our friends in the coalition forces who faced risks and responsibilities and sustained casualties and damage while helping Iraq to get rid from the ugliest dictatorship and during the joint effort to impose security and stability," Talabani said.
Describing June 30 as a "glorious page" in Iraq's history he warned that "security will not be achieved completely without proper political environment and without a real national unity and reconciliation."
Iraq marked the day with an overnight display of fireworks, while thousands attended a party in a park where singers performed patriotic songs.
The midnight handover to Iraqi forces filled many citizens with pride but also trepidation that government forces are not ready and that violence will rise. Shiites fear more bombings by Sunni militants; Sunnis fear that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces will give them little protection.
If the Iraqis can hold down violence in the coming months, it will show the country is finally on the road to stability. If they fail, it will pose a challenge to Obama's pledge to end an unpopular war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,300 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
Despite Tuesday's formal pullback, some U.S. troops will remain in the cities to train and advise Iraqi forces. U.S. troops will return to the cities only if asked. The U.S. military will continue combat operations in rural areas and near the border, but only with the Iraqi government's permission.
The U.S. has not said how many troops will be in the cities in advisory roles, but the vast majority of the more than 130,000 U.S. forces remaining in the country will be in large bases scattered outside cities.
There have been some worries that the 650,000-member Iraqi military is not ready to maintain stability and deal with a stubborn insurgency.
Privately, many U.S. officers worry the Iraqis will be overwhelmed if violence surges, having relied for years on the Americans for nearly everything.
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