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Double bomb attack hits Baghdad

17 December 08 10:13 GMT

At least 18 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a twin bomb attack in the Iraqi capital, police said.

Policemen were among the casualties in the blasts in Munstansariyah district in Baghdad, close to a traffic police station and a hospital, officials said.

It came as UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the date for a British withdrawal, on a visit to Baghdad.

The attack happened some distance from the heavily-fortified Green Zone where he was meeting Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki.

Officials said the first blast, which occurred early on Wednesday, was a car bomb. Moments later, a roadside bomb detonated close by, as people were rushing to the scene.

'Far from normal'

The Iraqi security forces - which are taking on increasing responsibility for imposing order as international forces prepare to withdraw - are often the target of militants.

This latest attack came as Gordon Brown announced, in a joint statement with Mr Maliki, that Britain's armed forces would complete their mission in Iraq in the first six months of 2009.

Mr Brown's visit comes after the Iraqi cabinet drafted a bill covering all remaining foreign forces - including Britain's - which means they would have to leave Iraq by the end of July.

US troops are covered by a separate agreement allowing them to stay until 2011.

The UK still has around 4,100 service men and women based in the southern city of Basra, but their main task now is training the Iraqi army and the Iraqi navy in the nearby port.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt, who is in Baghdad, says Wednesday's attacks are a clear indication that even though security is improving, daily life for Iraqis across much of the country is still not back to normal yet, six years after the US-led invasion.

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