At least 63 killed in Iraq bombings over weekend


A SERIES of bomb blasts killed at least 63 Iraqis over the weekend, pushing the August death toll to beyond 100.

A suicide bomber yesterday targeted a line of people collecting social security payments outside a post office, killing eight and wounding 32 in Ramadi, capital of the western Anbar province. Bombers killed four and wounded 21 following a robbery in Falluja, also in Anbar.

On Saturday evening, 43 civilians were slain and 185 injured in a double suicide bombing and a roadside bomb at a busy market in the southern port city of Basra.

Local police initially blamed the blast on a malfunctioning power generator but this was dismissed by the local security committee. Another eight people were killed, seven of them policemen, in Baghdad and the north. A US soldier died in Babil province south of Baghdad.

Violence has diminished since the sectarian warfare of 2006- 2007, but the number of attacks has increased since the March 7th parliamentary election. Different Iraqi official sources said fatalities ranged between 400 and 535 during July, figures disputed by the US military which fixed fatalities at 222. However, this figure may have excluded Iraqi security force deaths.

The latest spike in violence occurred as Iraqis began to prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day and eat special dishes with families and friends at night.

In previous years, attacks have increased during Ramadan, which begins Wednesday or Thursday.

The rise in violence is attributed to two factors. First, analysts say al-Qaeda, which has claimed a number of recent attacks, is reviving because it is recruiting former members of so-called “awakening councils”, made up of Sunni militiamen who joined the US in the 2007-2008 war against al-Qaeda and its allies.

Most of these councils, once 100,000-strong, have been dis- banded by prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, who promised their officers and men jobs in the armed forces and administration. Until these materialised they were to be paid a monthly salary.

However, Mr Maliki did not deliver on the promised jobs, payments have been irregular, while some council members have been arrested and others murdered. Al-Qaeda is said to be paying recruits $100 more than the official stipend.

Second, many Sunnis, voted in the March election for Iraqiya, a secular bloc headed by Iyad Allawi, in the expectation that their community could regain influence in the country’s political life. However, while Iraqiya won most seats in the assembly, it has been prevented from forming a government by the ruling religious Shia parties. In response, alienated Sunnis may be joining al-Qaeda and other groups.

Concerned over rising violence ahead of this month’s pull-out of US combat troops and the inability of Iraq’s politicians to form a government, US president Barack Obama wrote to Ayatollah Ali Sistani, asking him to press Shia politicians to break the deadlock over who should be the next prime minister.