Insurgents launched what appeared to be a highly coordinated string of attacks across Iraq yesterday morning, killing at least 32 and wounding more than 200, officials said.
The attacks, many involving car bombs, erupted less than a week before Iraqis in much of the country are scheduled to vote in the first elections since the 2011 US troop withdrawal, testing security forces’ ability to prevent bloodshed.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but coordinated attacks are a favorite tactic of al-Qaeda’s Iraq branch.
Iraqi officials believe the insurgent group is growing stronger and increasingly coordinating with allies fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad across the border. They say rising lawlessness on the Syria-Iraq frontier and cross-border cooperation with a Syrian group, the Nusra Front, has improved the militants’ supply of weapons and foreign fighters.
Nearly all of the deadly attacks reported by police officials were bombings.
They were unusually broad in scope, striking not just Baghdad, but also the western Sunni city of Fallujah, the ethnically contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk and towns in the predominantly Shiite south. Other attacks struck north of the capital, including the former al-Qaeda stronghold of Baqubah and former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.
The deadliest attacks were in Baghdad, where 15 people were killed. All occurred at about 9am.
In the eastern suburbs of Kamaliya, a parked car bomb exploded in a bus station, killing four and wounding 13.
Qassim Saad, an Arabic language teacher in an elementary school nearby, said his pupils began screaming as the explosion shattered windows and sparked panic.
He described a chaotic scene where security forces opened fire into the air upon arrival to disperse onlookers. Wooden carts carrying vegetables, fruit and other goods were overturned and stained with blood, and several nearby buildings and shops were damaged by the blast.
Like many Iraqis after major bombings, he accused the government of not doing enough to prevent deadly attacks.
“I blame those who call themselves politicians in government [and] the security forces ... for this bad security situation. They are doing nothing to help the people and are only looking out for their benefits,” he said.
Two more parked car bombs went off in a parking lot on the road that leads to Baghdad International Airport and killed three people, including a bodyguard of a Shiite lawmaker whose convoy was passing by. The lawmaker escaped unharmed. Sixteen others were wounded.
Four civilians were killed and 15 wounded when a blast tore through a market and a bus station in the southwestern Umm al-Maalif neighborhood. A roadside bomb went off in the commercial Karrada neighborhood, killing two and wounding 15, while another parked car bomb explosion killed two and wounded nine in western Shurta neighborhood. Five policemen were wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in eastern Baladiyat neighborhood.
In and around Kirkuk, three parked car bombs simultaneously went off downtown.