Sat, Sep 02, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Iraqis fear backlash from wave of new attacks on Shiites

AFP , BAGHDAD

Iraqis braced for violent reprisals yesterday after a spate of attacks on mainly Shiite areas of Baghdad killed 67 civilians and raised already sky-high tensions.

A five-day surge in attacks has left more than 400 Iraqis dead, many of them in bombings on Shiite markets and neighborhoods in Baghdad, and Sunnis and Shiites headed for their mosques amid an air of trepidation.

Health ministry executive director Hakim al-Zamly said last month's overall death toll would be lower than the previous month's, after a joint US-Iraqi military crackdown, but that the latest killings could spark reprisals.

"Now I fear the violence will go up, especially after what happened yesterday [Thursday]," he said, referring to seven synchronized car bomb and rocket attacks on Shiite and Christian districts which he said killed 67 civilians.

More than 300 people were wounded in the blasts, which tore through a street market killing women and children and demolishing several homes, including some in Sadr City, a bastion of Baghdad's powerful Shiite militias.

"It will bring violence from this side and the other," Al-Zamly warned.

The official figures for those killed and wounded across Iraq are expected to be released tomorrow, and US and Iraqi commanders expected them to be lower than July's record levels, especially in the war-torn capital.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government is pressing forward with plans to take responsibility for Iraq's security back from its allies in the US-led coalition.

Today, Iraq will announce the creation of a joint military command to oversee the work of its navy, air force and 10 army divisions, five of which are already the lead security force in their areas of responsibility.

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