Death toll in Iraq violence rises to 66 as insurgents strike at will

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The Independent Online

A wave of violence has engulfed Iraq with bombs killing at least 60 Iraqis and six US soldiers in a wave of attacks following the formation of a new government after three months of wrangling.

A wave of violence has engulfed Iraq with bombs killing at least 60 Iraqis and six US soldiers in a wave of attacks following the formation of a new government after three months of wrangling.

The streets of Baghdad were largely empty yesterday morning after 17 bombs had exploded across Iraq the previous day. The attacks show there is apparently no end to the number of suicide bombers willing to die in Iraq.

The six American soldiers were killed and two others wounded by roadside bombs, the US military said yesterday. Their deaths bring the total for US soldiers killed this month to 48. Four of the dead were killed by a roadside bomb near Tal Afar, an insurgent stronghold west of Mosul. Two other soldiers died in Baghdad. Some 1,579 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the invasion two years ago.

The suicide bombers are mostly pious young non-Iraqis seeking martyrdom fighting the infidel in Iraq. Many come from Sunni Arab countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Yemen. Their victims are frequently Iraqi police or civilians caught by the blast.

The suicide bombers have less success against the US military, which suffers most of its losses from bombs planted beside the road and detonated by a control wire or a remote control device adapted from a car door opener or a children's toy.

Attacks in Baghdad yesterday killed at least 10 people and wounded a further 32, said officials, on top of the 50 who died on Friday. A suicide car bomb exploded yesterday near the offices of the National Dialogue Council, a coalition of 10 Sunni Arab factions that have been negotiating a stake in the new government which is dominated by Shia Muslims and Kurds. Two civilians were killed and 18 wounded. The insurgent factions responsible totally reject participation in the administration.

The suicide bomb attacks show that, although the Iraqi security forces claim to be making progress in breaking up insurgent cells, these can still launch co-ordinated assaults in different parts of Iraq.

There were explosions not only in and around Baghdad but in the far south near Basra and in the north in Arbil, a Kurdish city where a bomb disposal expert was killed.

"It is very difficult to stop suicide bombers because they don't care if they die," Karim Sinjari, the Interior Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said in Arbil before the attack on Friday.

Mr Sinjari confirmed that most of the suicide bombers are foreign but added that they could not operate without an infrastructure organised by Iraqis. A Syrian and a Saudi killed more than 100 people in Arbil in February last year, blowing themselves up in rooms crowded with people celebrating a festival. He thought that any attacks in Arbil would be orchestrated from Mosul or Kirkuk because the insurgents "no longer have cells here".

The suicide bombers have, since their first attacks in August 2003, been entirely careless over how many civilians they kill or injure. This has led to divisions with other resistance groups who say their reputation is being tarnished by the savagery and fanaticism of the suicide bombers. The US army and Iraqi security forces have never found an effective counter to the suicide bombings and the roadside bombs - typically several heavy artillery shells with blasting caps connected to a battery.

The new government in Baghdad - cobbled together last week after three months ofnegotiations - lacks a strong Sunni element. Important jobs are held by acting ministers, such as Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Prime Minister, acting as Defence Minister and Ahmed Chalabi, a deputy Prime Minister, as Oil Minister.

The Shia coalition, called the United Iraqi Alliance, does not see why, after its election victory on 30 January, it should give important ministries to Sunni Arab figures who did not get elected and whose ability to represent their community is dubious.

The Sunnis as a whole boycotted the election. Holding ministries is also important as a means of patronage. Iraqi political parties are notorious for filling ministries with their political friends as well as members of their clan, tribe, religion or ethnic group.