A witness said the bomb appeared to have been placed under a parked vehicle. — Photo by AFP

BAGHDAD: Seven Iraqis were wounded as an improvised bomb struck a French embassy car in southern Baghdad on Monday, interior ministry and hospital sources said.

The embassy told AFP the bomb exploded as a single armoured car with four French guards on board was passing by and that no one inside was hurt.

“The bomb targeted a passing French diplomatic convoy. Four Iraqi guards protecting the convoy were hurt, and three people passing by were also wounded,” an interior ministry official told AFP earlier.

A medical source at Ibn Nafis hospital said it had received seven wounded Iraqis, among them four guards.

The bomb struck near the French ambassador's residence in the Mesbah district of southern Baghdad, and an embassy vehicle damaged by the explosion was left at the site, an AFP journalist said.

“A single armoured vehicle carrying four French embassy guards was damaged by a roadside bomb at 8:17 a.m.,” said Denis Gauer, the French ambassador who recently arrived in Baghdad to take up his post.

“No one in the car was hurt and there is no indication the bomb was especially targetting this vehicle,” he told AFP.

Roadside bombs are common in Iraq, with similar attacks every day.

A witness said the bomb appeared to have been placed under a parked vehicle.

“A bomb under a parked car exploded as soon as a blue 4x4 vehicle from the embassy arrived. The embassy car was hurled forward a few feet,” said Abu Hassan, who witnessed the explosion.

Violence has plummeted in Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007, when tens of thousands were killed in clashes between Sunni and Shia Arabs and insurgent attacks. But bombings and kidnappings remain common.

Private security firm AKE Group said last week that attacks have been on the rise since the start of the year, with violent incidents averaging more than 10 a day in May, up from four to five a day in January.

Official figures put the death toll from attacks in May at 177, most of them killed by roadside bombs or with silencer-fitted handguns.

The rise in violence comes with only months to go before US troops, in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, are due to complete a pullout under the terms of a bilateral security pact.

American officials have been pressing their counterparts in Baghdad to decide quickly whether or not to extend the military presence beyond year-end.

The issue is complicated by bickering within Iraq's national unity government, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki having yet to appoint ministers of defence and interior, 16 months ago after a parliamentary election.

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