Sectarian violence on the rise as 50 die over two days in Iraq

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Attacks across Iraq have killed 50 people in the last two days as growing friction between Sunni and Shia leads to more sectarian violence. Sunni anger has been increasing since Iraqi army soldiers broke up a peaceful sit- in in a square in the town of Hawaijah last month and killed 51 people including at least eight children.

Car bombs exploded in Shia districts of the capital, targeting places where civilians are likely to gather. The first of the bombings took place at a bus and taxi stop in the Shia working class bastion of Sadr City in East Baghdad. Nine people were killed including a child and 16 were wounded. Car bombs blew up in two other Shia neighbourhoods, in one case a a taxi stop and in another a small market. A further five people were killed and 14 wounded.

Overall 17 people were killed today and 33 yesterday. The attacks bare the hall mark of al-Qa’ida in Iraq that has been showing greater strength because mounting Sunni hatred of the Shia dominated government. Sunni in Baghdad, who make up less than a fifth of the population in the capital, are fearful that their remaining enclaves will targeted if there is a return to the violence of the sectarian civil war which was at its height in 2006-7.

Since the Hawiajah massacre on 23 April Sunni local leaders have been demanding an army withdrawal from Sunni majority provinces in northern and central Iraq. Previously, the Sunni had welcomed a military presence as a counter-balance to Kurdish control.

Car bombings in the last two days have been aimed mainly at Shia civilians, but a suicide bomber in the northern city of Mosul drove his car into an army checkpoint killing two soldiers and wounding three. Sunni lawmakers considered too moderate by al-Qa’ida have also been singled out for assassination. Gunmen in south west Baghdad shot the brother of a Sunni politician today killing him and wounding two of his bodyguards in a drive-by shooting.

Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said sectarianism was behind the latest attacks. He said “we have to know that today’s bloodshed is the result of sectarian hatred and also the stirring up of these sectarian tensions.” But Sunni blame him for marginalising them, rejecting reforms and winning election by frightening the Shia majority with the prospect of a Sunni counter-revolution.