Iraq bombings, shooting claim at least 66 lives
BAGHDAD // Baghdad residents awoke yesterday to a coordinated wave of bombings mainly targeting Shiite areas killing dozens, while seven in single family were shot dead as they slept south of the capital.
Some reports put the death toll across the country as high as 71. Others said at least 66 were killed and many more were wounded.
The string of morning attacks was the latest in a relentless wave of killing that has left thousands dead since April, marking the country's worst spate of bloodshed since 2008. Coordinated car bomb attacks have hit Baghdad repeatedly for several months, sometimes as often as twice per week.
The violence raises fears that Iraq is hurtling back toward the brink of a civil war fuelled by ethnic and sectarian differences.
Insurgents yesterday deployed explosives-laden cars, suicide bombers and other bombs and targeted parking lots, outdoor markets and restaurants in predominantly Shiite neighbourhoods of the capital, according to officials. A military convoy was also hit south of the capital.
Security forces sealed off the bomb scenes as ambulances raced to pick up the wounded. The twisted wreckage of cars littered the pavement while cleaners and shop owners brushed away debris. At one restaurant near an explosion, the floor was stained with blood, and dishes were scattered on plastic tables.
"What sin have those innocent people committed?" said Ahmed Jassim, who saw one of the explosions in Baghdad's Hurriyah neighbourhood. "We hold the government responsible."
The northern neighbourhood of Kazimiyah, home to a prominent, gold-domed Shiite shrine, was among the worst hit. Two bombs went off in a car park, followed by a suicide car bomber who struck onlookers who had gathered at the scene. Police said 10 people were killed and 27 wounded in that attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the day's attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda. The group frequently targets Shiites, which it considers heretics, and employs coordinated bombings in an attempt to incite sectarian strife.
Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, said the group is increasingly showing "huge confidence and military capability".
"Both the increasing frequency, and statistically, the increasing deadliness of (their) coordinated nationwide bombings in Iraq underlines the extent of their operational reach and the huge depth of their resources," he said.
The Shiite family shot dead at home was found in the largely Sunni town of Latifiyah, about 30 kilometres south of Baghdad. Three children, ages eight to 12, were killed along with their parents and two uncles in that attack, according to police.
Authorities said they had previously fled the town after being threatened, and returned only three weeks ago.
Many of the day's blasts targeted morning shoppers. Among them was a parked car bomb that detonated in a commercial area in the northern Shaab neighbourhood of Baghdad, killing nine and wounding 25.
More parked car bombs went off in outdoor markets in the sprawling slum of Sadr City, where five were killed. Similar attacks hit the northeastern neighbourhood of Shula, killing three; the southeastern Jisr Diyala district, killing eight; and the eastern New Baghdad area, killing three.
Blasts also hit the neighbourhoods of Bayaa, Jamila, Hurriyah and Saydiyah, claiming a total of 12 lives.
Outside the capital, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a restaurant in Mahmoudiyah, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Baghdad, killing five and wounding 14. And in Madain, about 25 kilometres south-east of Baghdad, a roadside bomb struck a passing military patrol, killing four soldiers and wounding six others.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures, which included more than 190 wounded.
The deputy United Nations envoy to Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, condemned the blasts and urged authorities to do more to protect the Iraqi people.
"No political goal or grievance can possibly justify this daily bloodshed of innocent civilians," she said.
The violence follows months of protests by Iraq's Sunni minority against the Shiite-led government that began late last year. Attacks have been on the rise since a deadly security crackdown by security forces on a Sunni protest in April, while the increasingly sectarian nature of the civil war in Syria is inflaming Iraq's own long-festering differences between Sunnis and Shiites.
In response, imams and other Muslim leaders have called for restraint, and security forces have tried to ratchet up counterinsurgency operations.
More than 500 people have been killed so far in August.
Updated: August 29, 2013 04:00 AM