Militants kill 107 on deadliest day in Iraq since US withdrawal


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The Independent Online

Over 100 people were killed yesterday in multiple bombings and shootings across Iraq as insurgents mainly targeted members of the majority Shia population in easily the bloodiest day of violence since US troops pulled out seven months ago.

With the death toll put at at least 107, along with 268 wounded, the chillingly co-ordinated series of attacks appeared to underline the capacity of an emboldened insurgency to exploit weaknesses in the country's security apparatus.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in Baghdad and around a dozen other cities and towns, Iraqi officials blamed the local al-Qa'ida organisation made up of Sunni Muslims, who are still virulently opposed to the Shia-led government.

The most lethal attack came in Taji, about 12 miles north of Baghdad, where police said bombs planted near five residential buildings exploded before dawn and that a sixth, possibly a suicide bomb, had been detonated among a crowd of police who had rushed to help. Police said 41 people had died in all.

An unnamed senior Iraqi security official partly linked the attacks to events in neighbouring Syria, telling Reuters that the recent attacks were a clear message that al-Qa'ida "is determined to spark a bloody sectarian war". He added: "With what's going on in Syria, these attacks should be taken seriously as a potential threat to our country. Al-Qa'ida is trying to push Iraq to the verge of Shia-Sunni war. They want things to be as bad as in Syria."

The attribution to al-Qa'ida was reinforced by a prediction of a new offensive made in an audio message in the name of its Iraqi leader, Abu Bakir Al Baghdadi, on Sunday. Suggesting that its militants would recover ground they had lost before the departure of American troops, he had said: "We are returning again to dominate territories we used to dominate, as well as more."

In Kirkuk, where five car bombs killed six people and wounded 17, a man named Ahmed Salmi shouted angrily at the scene of one of the blasts: "I ask the government if security forces are capable of keeping control." He told Reuters TV: "With all these bloody bombs and innocent people killed, the government should reconsider its security plans."

A total of 21 people were killed in two Shia areas of Baghdad, the poor, sprawling suburb of Sadr City, where two car bombs exploded near a government building, and in Hussainiya on the outskirts of the capital. Police said the attacks had also wounded 73 people.