x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Iraq crisis worsens as country-wide attacks kill 73 people

UN chief Ban Ki-moon and other leaders have urged Iraq’s leaders to seek political reconciliation to resolve nationwide violence and the standoff in Anbar, but Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, has ruled out dialogue with militants as his forces have launched wide-ranging security operations.

BAGHDAD // A wave of attacks in Iraq, including a series of car bombs in Baghdad, killed 73 people on Wednesday as militants took more territory from security forces in Anbar province.

The twin setbacks for authorities grappling with Iraq’s worst period of unrest since the country emerged from a sectarian war that killed tens of thousands come just months before landmark parliamentary elections.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon and other leaders have urged Iraq’s leaders to seek political reconciliation to resolve nationwide violence and the standoff in Anbar, but Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, has ruled out dialogue with militants as his forces have launched wide-ranging security operations.

But the operations, which authorities say have led to the killing and capture of several Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants who are affiliated with Al Qaeda, have not stopped the bloodshed.

Eight car bombs hit civilian targets in majority-Shiite or confessionally-mixed neighbourhoods of the capital, killing 37, with one targeting a packed market in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Shaab, and another detonating outside a restaurant on Sanaa Street.

Windows of nearby shops were shattered, the restaurant’s ceiling partially caved in, and blood and mangled vehicle parts were scattered around the scene.

A suicide bombing at a funeral in the town of Buhruz, in the Diyala province north of Baghdad, also killed 16 people and wounded 20 others, officials said.

The funeral was for a member of the Sahwa, the Sunni tribal militias who sided with the US military from 2006 against Sunni militants from Al Qaeda, helping turn the tide of Iraq’s violent insurgency.

As a result, the Sahwa, or Awakening, are often targeted by Sunni militants who see them as traitors.

Thirteen others, including nine soldiers, were killed in and around the northern city of Mosul. Seven employees of a brick factory in Muqdadiyah, also north of Baghdad, were gunned down by insurgents.

In the western province of Anbar, meanwhile, Iraqi forces lost more ground as Sunni gunmen, including those linked to Al Qaeda, overran two areas when police abandoned their posts.

The losses mark a second day of setbacks for government forces and their tribal allies as they try to retake territory on the capital’s doorstep from militants who hold all of the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah and parts of the nearby Anbar provincial capital Ramadi.

* Agence France-Presse