The spate of bombings on the first day of 2006, included eight in Baghdad that detonated within about a two-hour period, as resistance fighters opposed to the US presence in Iraq continued their attacks into the new year.

The first bomb exploded at 8.15am (0515 GMT) in northern Baghdad as an Iraqi army patrol was passing. Bilal Ali Majid, a police lieutenant, said two soldiers were wounded.

Seven more car bombs exploded over the next two and a half hours, wounding nine people, police said. One attacker died. Police explosives experts detonated a ninth car bomb in a controlled explosion.

Police said two civilians were wounded in the second car bomb at 9am (0600 GMT). About 4km (two miles) away, police tried to defuse the third, but it exploded with no casualties.

The fourth exploded near a restaurant, the fifth in a car park wounding one person. Five minutes later the sixth bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, injuring no one.

At 10.10am (0710 GMT), the seventh followed wounding eight civilians. The eighth hit an amusement park in eastern Baghdad.

Outside Baghdad

Just north of Tikrit, a car bomber detonated his load near an American patrol, injuring six civilians,police 1st Lieutenant Ali Jasmin said. Iraqi police had no information on American casualties and US officials had no immediate information.

An Iraqi soldier secures the
scene of a car bomb in Baghdad

Police Brigadier Sarhat Qadir   said two further car bombs exploded in Kirkuk, including one that targeted an American convoy, causing no injuries. The second bomb targeted a police convoy, wounding three civilians.

US Brigadier-General Donald Alston on Sunday said officials had expected attacks to increase after the security measures put in place for the 15 December parliamentary elections were relaxed.

"We're seeing that increase right now," he said.

"This is perceived, inappropriately I would say, or inaccurately perhaps, by the enemy as a time of vulnerability as the
government transitions ... to a permanent government."

Earlier deaths

On Saturday, at least 20 people were killed in a series of bombings and shootings.

A US soldier also died from wounds on Saturday from a mortar attack in Baghdad, the military said, taking the American military toll in 2005 to 841 - five short of 2004's record total, despite political progress and dogged US and Iraqi efforts to quash the fighting. A total of 846 troops died in 2004 and 485 in 2003.

The remains of a car bomb in the
Baladiya district of Baghdad

The United States hopes that as more Iraqi police and army forces are trained, they will take over responsibility for security from American troops. Much of that expectation hinges on the ability of Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups to form a broad-based government that will have the legitimacy to deflate the Sunni Arab-led fighting.

Police Brigadier Saed Ahmed also reported on Sunday that about a dozen armed men attacked a police checkpoint in Mosul, killing one bystander and injuring three policemen.

Also on Sunday, a Cypriot man kidnapped in Iraq four months ago was released, a relative said.