Insurgent bomb attacks carried out almost simultaneously across northern and central Iraq killed at least 36 and wounded over 200 people today.
The bombings, almost certainly carried out by al-Qa’ida, are stoking fears that the jihadi organisation, which focuses its attacks on Shia civilians, is becoming stronger because of the rebellion in Syria.
Car bombs exploded across Baghdad at about 9am, killing at least 15 people, mostly passers-by in Shia neighbourhoods. A further six car bombs blew up in and around Kirkuk, the Kurdish-controlled oil city disputed between Kurds, Arabs and Turkoman, killing nine people.
Most of the explosions were of car bombs, but in Sunni Arab Fallujah west of Baghdad, a suicide bomber drove into a police checkpoint, killing two policemen and wounding six others.
The bombings are politically significant because they come a few days before provincial elections on Saturday that will test the popularity of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his party. The well-coordinated attacks by al-Qa’ida are likely to heighten the sense of threat felt by the Shia-majority Iraq, and this might benefit Mr Maliki as protector of the Shia. The Shia community is fearful of a Sunni counter-offensive aimed at ejecting them from power, which they gained after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Al-Qa’ida in Iraq announced last week that it was joining with the powerful al-Nusra Front in Syria to form a single organisation.
The simultaneous timing of the bombs shows the Iraqi security forces’ failure to eliminate al-Qa’ida in Iraq. Iraqi officials say that the group is now receiving weapons and foreign fighters from Syria.