x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Iraq mortar attack kills 4, wounds 11 as violence soars to worst level in years

Violence in Iraq is now at its deadliest level in half a decade, raising fears that the country is returning to the widespread bloodshed that pushed it to the edge of civil war between 2006 and 2008.

Security forces inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in Basra,  550 kilometres southeast of Baghdad.
Security forces inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in Basra, 550 kilometres southeast of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD // Attacks across Iraq killed nine people yesterday, including a 10-year-old boy out swimming with friends.

Violence in Iraq is now at its deadliest level in half a decade, raising fears that the country is returning to the widespread bloodshed that pushed it to the edge of civil war between 2006 and 2008. More than 2,800 people have been killed since the start of April.

Police said the deadliest attack yesterday was a mortar barrage near a group of people trying to escape the blistering summer heat by swimming in the Tigris River near Samarra, about 95 kilometres north of Baghdad.

Four people were killed in the mortar shelling, including the boy, and 11 were wounded, according to police.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a car bomb went off near a passing security patrol, killing a policeman and wounding 11 people, including four civilians.

The blast left a crater two metres wide near the side of the road, and the charred hull of the blue police vehicle lay mangled in the street.

Hours later, a suicide bomber slammed his explosives-laden car into an army checkpoint near Kirkuk, killing two soldiers, according to Lt Gen Mohammed Khalaf, a senior military commander in the city.

More than 140 people have been killed since Muslims in Iraq began observing Ramadan on Wednesday.

The American and British missions each issued statements yesterday condemning the daily rash of attacks.

"That these attacks have taken place during the holy month of Ramadan, a time for charity and compassion is especially disturbing," said Britain's charge d'affaires in Iraq, Robert Deane. "This continued violence is clearly intended to fuel sectarian strife and destabilise the country."

In other violence yesterday, a police officer said gunmen sprayed a security checkpoint with bullets just south of Baghdad, killing two soldiers and wounding four.

The attacks came a day after a wave of coordinated bombings in mostly Shiite cities and other attacks left at least 38 dead and scores wounded.