At least 28 die in Baghdad blasts


Eight car bombs exploded in Shia Muslim neighbourhoods across Iraq’s capital Baghdad yesterday morning, killing at least 28 people in blasts that tore into shops, restaurants and busy commercial streets.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni Muslim insurgents have stepped up their activity since the beginning of the year in a bid to undermine the Shia-led government and trigger deeper intercommunal fighting.

One blast tore off shop fronts in Qaiyara district while another left the remains of a car and its twisted engine littered across a high street in the busy commercial Karrada district, packed with restaurants and shops.

“I was buying an air conditioner and suddenly there was an explosion,” said salesman Jumaa Kareem, his jacket spattered with blood in Habibiya district, which was also hit.

“I threw myself on the ground. Minutes later I saw many people around, some of them dead, others wounded.”

Yesterday’s blasts followed the assassination of a senior Iraqi army intelligence officer on Saturday, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings since January that indicate insurgent determination to stoke sectarian tensions.

Violence in Iraq is increasing just as political tensions are rising against Shia prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s power-sharing government made up of Shia, Sunni and ethnic Kurds who split posts among them.

Thousands of Sunni Muslim protesters have rallied daily since late December in western provinces against what they see as the marginalisation of their minority sect, and calling for Mr Maliki to step down.

Many Iraq Sunnis feel they have been sidelined and unfairly targeted by security forces since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the country’s Shia majority through the ballot box after the US-led invasion.

The country’s fragile power-sharing government has been paralysed by political infighting since the last American troops, who invaded the Opec country to oust Saddam in 2003, withdrew more than a year ago.

Mr Maliki has offered concessions to Sunni protesters, but the Shia prime minister has warned against allowing insurgents and hardline Islamists to hijack the demonstrations. – (Reuters)