| GEO World|
| US troops leave Iraqi cities as car bomb kills 27|
| Updated at: 0132 PST, Wednesday, July 01, 2009|
BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces jubilantly paraded in tanks and armoured vehicles on Tuesday as they took control of towns and cities, but the celebrations were marred by a car bomb that killed 27 people.
US President Barack Obama, who opposed predecessor George W. Bush's invasion of the country and campaigned for an early pullout of US troops, hailed the withdrawal as an "important milestone" but warned of difficult days ahead.
Iraq marked the American pullback with a national holiday six years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, but sparked an insurgency and sectarian bloodshed that left tens of thousands dead.
American troops were set to quit built-up areas by midnight (2100 GMT), ahead of a complete pullout by the end of 2011.
Before a bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk overshadowed the festivities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki took on critics of Iraq's army and police, saying they were up to the task of taking over from the Americans.
"It is an offence to the Iraqis. The people who said that the foreign troops would never withdraw and would keep permanent bases in our country were giving a green light to the terrorists to kill civilians," he said.
Twenty-seven people, including women and children, were killed and 80 hurt in the evening attack in Kirkuk, the city's health director said.