Blasts kill at least 19 in Iraq as US signals accelerated arms sales to the region

Bombs across Baghdad mark an upsurge in violence amid concerns of sectarian warfare

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The Independent Online

A string of attacks on cafes and public meeting areas across Iraq have killed at least 19 people, officials said today.

Sparking concerns that the country could once again descend into a quagmire of sectarian violence, blasts ripped through several cafes in a Sunni Arab neighbourhood of the capital Baghdad and elsewhere last night.

In the central city of Baquba, one of Iraq’s most violent areas, two car bombs killed 12 people and wounded 25. The attackers detonated the second as passers-by rushed to help those injured in the first.  

Within a few hours, an explosion near another cafe in Adhamiyah, a predominantly Sunni area of Baghdad, killed four people and seriously injured more than a dozen others.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, separate attacks killed a barber and wounded nine others, and two more blasts in the town of Jbela, about 35 miles south of the capital, wounded three.

Iraq has seen an increase in violence since the beginning of the year, coinciding with protests among the country's Sunni Arab minority against Shiite-led authorities.

According to reports, analysts say a failure by the government to address the underlying causes of the demonstrations has given militant groups both a recruitment platform and room to manoeuvre.

The attacks come as senior Iraqi officials and American military personnel signal the possibility of renewed army training for local forces.

General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended on Wednesday that the American government send training teams and accelerate sales of weapons and equipment to the region to bolster Iraq’s military capabilities.

In response, Ali al-Moussawi, the media adviser for Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Baghdad would welcome increased support to help it confront rising regional instability and terrorist threats.

“We welcome this kind of co-operation and we consider it a part of the existing agreement between us,” al-Moussawi said when asked about Dempsey’s comments.

“Because of the high risks the region faces, I think there should be bigger co-operation and co-ordination between all countries threatened by terrorism.”