x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Iraq attacks kill 41 as 2013 toll tops 5,800

Latest wave of violence sparks appeal by Baghdad for international help in fighting the country's worst bloodshed since 2008.

BAQUBA // A bombing at a market north of Baghdad that killed 32 people was the deadliest of attacks that killed 41 Thursday, as Iraq’s 2013 death toll topped 5,800 amid a surge in unrest.

The flare-up has prompted Baghdad to appeal for international help in fighting the country’s worst bloodshed since 2008, just months before its first general election in four years.

Officials have voiced concerns over a resurgent Al Qaeda emboldened by the civil war in neighbouring Syria, which has provided the network’s front groups with increased room to plan and carry out attacks in Iraq.

Thursday’s violence came a day after a spate of attacks, most of them car bombs targeting Shiite neighbourhoods of Baghdad, killed 59 people and wounded more than 100 in Iraq’s highest death toll of the month.

Shootings and bombings struck in and around Baghdad and in Diyala, an ethnically mixed province north of Baghdad that has experienced some of Iraq’s worst bloodshed recently.

In the deadliest attack on Thursday, a car bomb went off around noon in a fruit and vegetable market in the Diyala town of Saadiyah.

At least 32 people were killed and 40 wounded in the blast, officials said.

Another blast in Diyala killed one person, officials said, while shootings and bombings in and around Baghdad left six people dead.

Authorities in Diyala also found the bodies of a dozen residents snatched by kidnappers purporting to be members of the security forces.

The 12 were executed and their bodies thrown into a nearby river, reminiscent of targeted killings that were rampant during the worst of Iraq’s sectarian bloodshed in 2006 and 2007.

No group has claimed responsibility for the violence, but Sunni militants linked to Al Qaeda often carry out such attacks, ostensibly to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government and security forces.

“Their capability to conduct attacks has increased,” deputy national security adviser Safa Hussein said in a recent interview, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Al Qaeda front group.

“By now they understand they can’t realise their ambition in establishing a state. Nor can they defeat the government.

“But they can work towards their goal in establishing indirect control in some of the areas, and making the state a failed state, which is a very good environment for them to flourish.”

Meanwhile, investigators searching for the gunmen behind the assassination of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s chief bodyguard got into a firefight with a suspect in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.

The suspect and a policeman were both killed in the exchange, security officials said.

Agence France-Presse