Wave of car bombings kills 60 in Iraq
Total of 17 blasts were focused on Shia areas and appeared to be co-ordinated
Street cleaners remove debris on the road at the site of a car bomb attack in Basra, 420 km (260 miles) southeast of Baghdad.
Car bombs ripped through busy streets and markets in Iraq yesterday, killing at least 60 people in predominantly Shia areas in some of the deadliest violence since Sunni insurgents stepped up attacks this year.
The 17 blasts, which appeared to be co-ordinated, were concentrated on towns and cities in Iraq’s mainly Shia south, and districts of the capital where Shias live.
Militant groups including al-Qaeda have increased attacks in recent months in an insurgency against the Shia-led government as a civil war in neighbouring Syria heightens sectarian tensions.
The violence has raised fears of a return to full-blown intercommunal conflict in a country where ethnic Kurds, majority Shias and Sunni Muslims have yet to find a stable way of sharing power.
In Baghdad’s Shia stronghold of Sadr city, police and witnesses said a minivan drew up to a group of men waiting by the side of the road for day work. The driver told them to get in before detonating an explosive device in the vehicle.
“The driver asked labourers to get into the van, then he disappeared and minutes later the truck exploded, flinging the labourers’ bodies back,” said Yahya Ali, a worker who was standing nearby.
Yesterday’s attacks underscore deteriorating security in Iraq, where almost 4,000 people have been killed since the start of the year, according to violence monitoring group Iraq Body Count. In July, more than 810 people were killed in militant attacks.
“I am deeply concerned about the heightened level of violence, which carries the danger that the country falls back into sectarian strife,” said acting United Nations envoy to Iraq Gyorgy Busztin.
“Iraq is bleeding from random violence, which sadly reached record heights during the holy month of Ramadan.”
At least 10 people were killed when two car bombs blew up near a bus station in the city of Kut, 150km (95 miles) southeast of the capital, police said.
Four more were killed in a blast in the town of Mahmoudiya, about 30km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, and two bombs in Samawa, further south, killed two.
The rest of the bombings took place across Baghdad, in the districts of Habibiya, Hurriya, Bayaa, Ur, Shurta, Kadhimiya, Risala, Tobchi and Abu Dsheer.
An assault on Abu Ghraib prison last week raised questions about the ability of Iraq’s security services to combat al-Qaeda, which has been regrouping and striking with a ferocity not seen in years.
“Today’s attacks are closely linked with the Taji and Abu Ghraib prison breaks, which have encouraged terrorist groups to launch further attacks in areas of a specific sect to put more pressure on the government and undermine security force morale,” said Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defence committee in parliament.
Insurgents have been recruiting from the Sunni minority, which increasingly resents Shia domination since the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, in 2003.
Yesterday, a roadside bomb killed a senior police officer, his aide and two guards when it hit their convoy near Baiji, 180km (112 miles) north of the capital, and five roadside bombs targeted a police patrol in Baghdad’s Palestine Street. – (Reuters)