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Bombs targeting Sunnis kill at least 76 in Iraq
ripped through Sunni areas in Baghdad and surrounding areas on Friday, killing at least 76 people in the deadliest day in Iraq in more than eight months. The major spike in sectarian bloodshed heightened fears the country could again be veering towards civil war.
The attacks followed two days of bombings targeting Shias, including bus stops and outdoor markets, with a total of 130 people killed since Wednesday.
Scenes of bodies sprawled across a street outside a mosque and mourners killed during a funeral procession were reminiscent of some of the worst days of retaliatory warfare between the Islamic sects that peaked in 2006-2007 as US forces battled extremists on both sides.
Tensions have been intensifying since Sunnis began protesting against what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shia-led government, including random detentions and neglect. The protests, which began in December, have largely been peaceful, but the number of attacks rose sharply after a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq on 23 April.
Majority Shias control the levers of power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Wishing to rebuild the nation rather than revert to open warfare, they have largely restrained their militias in the past five years or so as Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaida have frequently targeted them with large-scale attacks.
Nobody claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks, but the fact they occurred in mainly Sunni areas raised suspicion that Shia militants were involved. The bombs also were largely planted, as opposed to the car bombings and suicide attacks that al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni insurgents are known to use.
Talal al-Zobaie, a Sunni politician, called on politicians across the religious and ethnic spectrum to put aside their differences and focus on protecting the nation.
"The terrorist attacks on Sunni areas today and on Shia areas in the past two days are an indication that some groups and regional countries are working hard to reignite the sectarian war in Iraq," he said. "The government should admit that it has failed to secure the country and the people, and all security commanders should be replaced by efficient people who can really confront terrorism. Sectarianism that has bred armies of widows and orphans in the past is now trying to make a comeback in this country, and everybody should be aware of this."
The areas hit on Friday were all former Sunni insurgent strongholds that saw some of the fiercest fighting of the US-led war as sectarian rivalries nearly tore the country apart.
The deadliest blast struck worshippers as they were leaving the main Sunni mosque in Baqouba, 35 miles north-east of Baghdad. Another explosion went off shortly afterward as people gathered to help the wounded, leaving 41 dead and 56 wounded, according to police and hospital officials.
Grocery store owner Hassan Alwan was among the worshippers who attended Friday prayers in the al-Sariya mosque. He said he was getting ready to leave when he heard the explosion, followed by another a few minutes later.
"We rushed into the street and saw people who were killed and wounded, and other worshippers asking for help," he said. "I do not know where the country is headed amid these attacks against both Sunnis and Shias."
Baqouba was the site of some of the fiercest fighting between US forces and insurgents. Al-Qaida in Iraq essentially controlled the area for years, defying numerous US offensives aimed at restoring control. It also is the capital of Diyala province, a religiously mixed area that saw some of the worst atrocities as Shia militias battled Sunni insurgents for control.
A roadside bomb exploded later on Friday during a Sunni funeral procession in Madain, about 12 miles south of Baghdad, killing eight mourners and wounding 11, police said. Two medical officials confirmed the casualties.
Another blast struck a cafe in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding nine, according to police and hospital officials.
Ahmed Jassim, a 26-year-old taxi driver, took a wounded friend to the Fallujah hospital after the attack.
"We used to meet every Friday to smoke shisha and we thought we would have a good time today, but things turned into explosions and victims," he said, waiting outside the hospital.
In Baghdad, a bomb exploded near a shopping centre during the evening rush hour in the mainly Sunni neighbourhood of Amariyah, killing 21 people and wounding 32. That was followed by another bomb in a commercial district in Dora, another Sunni neighbourhood, which killed four people and wounded 22, according to officials.
"It is not a coincidence that the attacks were concentrated in some areas of one sect and then moved the next day into areas of the other sect," said Jawad al-Hasnawi, a lawmaker with the bloc loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
"It is clear that terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and Baathists are trying hard to reignite the sectarian war in Iraq," he added. "But the government bears full responsibility for this security chaos and it has to take quick and serious measures in order to stop the bloodshed, instead of just blaming other political blocs."
Hasnawi added: "Today and yesterday, the Iraqi people paid for the failure of government security forces. Everybody should expect darker days full of even deadlier attacks."
[Source: The Guardian, AP in Baghdad, London, 17May13]
War in Iraq
|This document has been published on 21May13 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|