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Baghdad bombers target soccer celebrations, killing at least 50

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: U.S. general says troops will be needed in northern Iraq into 2009
  • Death toll from car bombs rises to 50 as thousands celebrate soccer win
  • U.S. soldier dies of "non-battle related" causes, military says
  • U.S.-led coalition raids in three cities detain 20 suspected terrorists, U.S. says
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Car bombers targeted throngs of Iraqis on Wednesday as they spilled into Baghdad streets to cheer a national soccer victory, killing at least 50 people and leaving scores more wounded.

Iraqis carry the coffins Wednesday of relatives killed Tuesday in a suicide car bombing in Hilla.

Attacking revelers in the Mansour district of western Baghdad, a suicide car bomber killed at least 30 people and wounded 75, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

Later, in the southeastern neighborhood of Ghadir, a second car bomb killed at least 20 and wounded at least 60, the official said. The attack is near an Iraqi army checkpoint.

Thousands of fans had filled the streets of the capital after Iraqi athletes competing in Malaysia defeated South Korea, catapulting the nation to the Asian Cup finals for the first time.

In addition to the dual Baghdad bombings, random gunfire across the capital led to the deaths of two people and the wounding of 12, the ministry said.

Iraq defeated South Korea 4-3 in a penalty shootout in a semifinal game Wednesday night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

There had been street violence Saturday after Iraq won its quarterfinal game. Three people died and 25 were wounded during raucous celebrations in which people fired guns into the air.

Iraq and Saudi Arabia play for the championship in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the top U.S. commander in charge of troops in northern Iraq says that a coalition troop presence will be needed in his region over the next year and a half. But Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon told CNN on Wednesday that it is possible the number of troops in the north could drop by sometime next year.

"As I look at my area, I certainly can see we will need some level of troop presence by well into 2009. The numbers will depend on the situation," said Mixon, who has 23,000 troops under his command.

Mixon reported strides in Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the major offensive in and around Baquba that began last month: "We have taken Baquba back from the enemy. We have pushed them into the Diyala River valley and are continuing to attack them in the Diyala River valley."

A U.S. soldier with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) died Tuesday of a "non-battle related" cause, the U.S. military said Wednesday. The death put the total U.S. military personnel killed in the Iraq war at 3,637, including seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department. The number of American troop deaths for July is 58.

Also Wednesday, morning raids in three cities by coalition forces targeting al Qaeda in Iraq detained 20 suspected terrorists, according to a U.S. military statement.

"With every operation coalition forces conduct we are further degrading and destroying the al Qaeda in Iraq network," said Maj. Marc Young. "Al Qaeda and its foreign leadership seek only to bring violence and fear to the Iraqi people in its attempt to prevent a secure and democratic Iraq."

The raids took place in Baghdad, Mosul and Tarmiya, according to the statement.

At least 18 slain bodies were found across the capital on Wednesday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. The total number of such deaths this month stands at 504. Iraqi authorities suspect the fatalities are the result of sectarian violence. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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