x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Iraqis blame government for not stopping Eid attacks

Attacks kill 74 people as they mark Eid Al Fitr, ending Iraq's bloodiest Ramadan in years.

The site in the northern city of Tuz Khurmatu where a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle.
The site in the northern city of Tuz Khurmatu where a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle.

BAGHDAD // Iraqis angrily blamed the authorities yesterday for failing to prevent attacks that killed 74 people as they marked Eid Al Fitr ending Iraq's bloodiest Ramadan in years.

The violence, which also wounded more than 320 people, was roundly condemned by the international community.

It was the latest in months of bloodshed that have sparked worries of a revival of the all-out sectarian war that peaked in 2006 and 2007 and left tens of thousands dead.

The attacks came just weeks after assaults on prisons near Baghdad, claimed by an Al Qaeda front group, freed hundreds of prisoners, including leading militants, prompting warnings of a surge in violence.

Authorities, though, have highlighted major security operations which they say have led to the killing or capture of numerous militants.

Iraqis voiced frustration with the government and the security forces for failing to prevent the 16 car bombings and other attacks on Saturday. In Baghdad, 47 people were killed.

"There will not be any improvement in the Iraqi situation," said Abu Samer, 64, near the site of a twin car bombing in Shaab, north Baghdad, where eight people were killed.

"I cannot trust any politicians, because they make many promises, and the result of their work is what happens in our country each day."

The retired agricultural engineer said he hoped to send his children overseas, "far from what is happening in Iraq and Baghdad".

In east Baghdad, at the site of another car bombing, Ali Al Shammari said a long-running political deadlock was to blame.

"The presence of one party and another opposed to it is much better than dozens of political parties, even if they say we are in a dictatorial regime, because it is much better than dozens of people being killed each day," said Mr Al Shammari, 35, a cigarette seller.

"I will never vote for another person again. How long should we live in this situation because of politicians?"

Security forces tightened searches at checkpoints in the capital, leading to long queues of traffic, a blunt measure often employed in the immediate aftermath of deadly attacks, albeit one that has largely failed to curb the violence.

New attacks on Sunday killed six people nationwide, officials said.

Overall, more than 800 people were killed during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with the violence now at its deadliest since 2008, when Iraq was slowly emerging from brutal bloodletting.

The US and UN condemned the latest attacks, with Washington reiterating a Dh36.7 million bounty for information leading to the killing or capture of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Al Qaeda front group.

New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Iraqi authorities to "end draconian responses" to attacks, including torture of suspects, coerced confessions and convictions based on secret testimony.

Saturday's violence came just weeks after attacks on prisons near the capital in which hundreds of inmates were freed.

Analysts, as well as global police organisation Interpol, had warned that the jailbreaks could lead to a rise in attacks, as the escapees were said to include senior Al Qaeda militants.