A wave of at least 14 bombings ripped across Baghdad yesterday morning, killing at least 60 people in the worst violence Iraq has seen in months.
The apparently coordinated attacks struck days after the last US forces left Iraq and in the midst of a major government crisis between the country’s top Shiite and Sunni political leaders that has sent sectarian tensions soaring.
The bombings may be linked more to the US withdrawal than the political crisis, but all together the developments heighten fears of a new round of sectarian bloodshed.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the bombings bore all the hallmarks of an attack by the Sunni insurgents of al-Qaeda. Most of the violence appeared to hit Shiite neighborhoods, although some Sunni areas were also targeted. In all, 11 neighborhoods were hit by either car bombs, roadside blasts or sticky bombs attached to cars. At least one of the attacks was a suicide bombing and the blasts went off over several hours.
The worst was in Karrada neighborhood, where a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle blew himself up outside the office of a government agency fighting corruption. Two police officers at the scene said the bomber was driving an ambulance and told guards that he needed to get to a nearby hospital. After the guards let him through, he drove to the building where he blew himself up, the officers said.
Sirens wailed as ambulances rushed to the scene and a large plume of smoke rose over the area. The blast left a crater about 5m wide in front of the five-story building, which was singed and blackened.
“I was sleeping in my bed when the explosion happened,” said 12-year-old Hussain Abbas, who was standing nearby in his pajamas. “I jumped from my bed and rushed to my mom’s lap. I told her I did not want to go to school today. I’m terrified.”
Figures gathered from Iraqi health and police officials put the death toll at 60, with 160 injured.
“All countries are stable. Why don’t we have security and stability?” asked one woman in western Baghdad, who identified herself as Um Hanin.