x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Bombs and shootings kill 13 in Baghdad

Saturday night's blasts went off after the iftar meal, when the streets are often filled with people out shopping and relaxing in cafes in the evenings, suggesting the attackers aimed to hit as many civilians as possible.

An Iraqi man sits at the site of a car bombing at a market in the Karrada district of Baghdad.
An Iraqi man sits at the site of a car bombing at a market in the Karrada district of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD // Bombings and shootings in Iraq killed 13 people yesterday, as the death toll from a coordinated wave of late-night car bombings and other attacks the day before jumped past 70, according to authorities.

The explosions are the latest in a relentless surge in bloodshed that has rocked Iraq since the start of Ramadan.

Saturday night's blasts went off after the iftar meal, when the streets are often filled with people out shopping and relaxing in cafes in the evenings, suggesting the attackers aimed to hit as many civilians as possible.

"What crime have those innocent people committed?" asked Kadim Mohsen, who was surveying the previous night's damage in the central neighbourhood of Karrada. Several storefronts were wrecked by the force of an explosion there, and broken watermelons and sandals littered the street.

"Who will compensate owners of those shops?" he asked. "We see explosions every day. We blame the army and police."

As the scale of the carnage became clearer yesterday, police reported that a total of 12 car bombs went off in Baghdad late on Saturday. They said the blasts and a shooting in the same area as one of the explosions killed 57, including some who died in the hospital overnight. More than 125 were reported wounded.

Those attacks and others around Iraq on Saturday killed a total of 71, according to police and hospital officials.

That made for the country's deadliest day since May 17, when a series of explosions in Sunni areas in and around Baghdad killed at least 76 people.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the latest attacks, although coordinated bombings against Shiites are a favourite tactic of Al Qaeda's Iraq branch.

Parliament speaker Osama Al Nujaifi urged security forces not to give up their fight against terrorists while demanding that they do more to prevent security breaches. Mr Al Nujaifi is a Sunni who is frequently critical of the Shiite prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki.

"We strongly condemn the evil and criminal attacks that targeted our people," he said. "These attacks are part of heinous efforts that aim to ignite unrest and sectarian strife."

Mr Al Maliki ordered a shake-up among the military brass in May in the wake of a series of deadly attacks, but the move appears to have done little to slow the pace of the killing.

The violence continued yesterday when a bomb exploded early in the day in a fish market in the town of Taji, 20 kilometres north of Baghdad. Police and hospital officials said that attacks killed four and wounded 15.

Another bomb exploded outside the house of a local anti-Al Qaeda Sunni militia leader in the town of Basmaiya, killing two and wounding four.

More than 450 people have been killed so far this month, including at least 284 since Ramadan began on July 10.

Increased violence across the country in the past few months have raised fears of a return to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 US-led invasion.