WASHINGTON, June 25 (UPI) -- With the death toll from a bomb attack in Sadr City approaching 70, U.S. military officials say Iraq can expect further violence as a combat deadline looms.
A bomb ripped through the Baghdad slum of Sadr City on Wednesday, killing at least 69. Attacks in Kirkuk and others Thursday, meanwhile, bring the death count to more than 160 for the past few days.
The outbreak of violence comes against the backdrop of a deadline for U.S. forces to pull back to their military outposts. U.S. officials say the trend may continue as the deadline approaches.
"I think we have reason to believe -- and I think our forces have been alerted to the possibility -- that we will likely see an uptick in violence leading up to the June 30 deadline for U.S. combat forces to leave Iraqi cities and towns," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.
U.S. Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top military commander in Iraq, said Iraqi and American troops are capable of dealing with the violence, with Morrell describing "layers of defense" around major urban centers.
Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, for his part, has said Iraqi forces were "more capable of controlling the security situation than foreign forces," echoing a level of confidence ahead of the deadline.
With violence simmering in Mosul and other volatile areas, however, Morrell acknowledged smaller units of American forces would stay behind to train, coordinate and assist Iraqi forces.