Iraq blasts kill 70 in second onslaught since US pull-out

 

AT LEAST 70 people were killed and 130 wounded yesterday in bombings in Baghdad and southern Iraq. These were the most devastating attacks since late December, when 63 people died in 14 co-ordinated bombings in the capital.

In Baghdad 24 were slain in four bombings in the Shia quarters of Kadhamiya and Sadr City, while in the southern city of Nasiriya, suicide bombers killed 46 pilgrims bound for the holy city of Kerbala.

Every year bombers target the hundreds of thousands of Shia pilgrims who walk to Kerbala for the Shia rites of Arbaeen, due to be marked next week.

Iraqi army spokesman Maj Gen Qassim al-Moussawi said the bombers’ objective was to “create sedition among the Iraqi people”, but he did not identify the culprits.

No group has claimed responsibility, although these attacks seem to bear the hallmark of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which claimed the December 22nd wave of bombings.

On Wednesday, there were attacks on the homes of police officers and a member of a Sunni militia that joined the 2007-08 US campaign to crush al-Qaeda.

The steady rise in violence has followed the withdrawal from Iraq on December 18th of the last US combat troops, and coincides with a political crisis precipitated by a boycott of parliament and cabinet by the secular Iraqiya bloc.

It garnered 80 per cent of the secular and Sunni votes in the 2010 parliamentary poll and won the largest number of seats but was unable to form a government due to prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s refusal to leave office.

With Iran’s aid, he put together a coalition cabinet after nine months of bickering.

Iraqiya withdrew after Mr Maliki, head of the dominant Shia fundamentalist alliance, accused Sunni vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi of organising assassinations of political opponents.

Mr Hashemi fled to the northern Kurdish autonomous region, arguing he would not receive a fair trial in Baghdad.

Mr Maliki has dismissed this charge.

He has also called on the assembly to dismiss Sunni deputy premier Saleh al-Mutlak, another leading Iraqiya figure, after he accused Mr Maliki – who also holds the portfolios of defence and interior – of behaving like a dictator.

Iraqiya’s boycott has brought about the collapse of the “national unity” arrangement brokered by Washington, which the US had hoped would work to stabilise the country after the pull-out of its troops.