Two separate car bombs exploded in a Shiite district in eastern Baghdad yesterday, police officials said, killing 11 people as violence surges in Iraq amid an escalating political crisis a month after the US military withdrawal.
A wave of bombing attacks has killed at least 170 people since the beginning of the year, many of whom were Shiite pilgrims attending religious commemorations.
The last US soldiers left the country on Dec. 18.
Suspected Sunni insurgents have frequently targeted Shiite communities and Iraqi security forces to undermine public confidence in the Shiite-dominated government and its efforts to protect people.
Yesterday’s first attack targeted an early morning gathering of day laborers in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Police said eight were killed and another 21 wounded. Minutes later, an explosives-packed car blew up near a pastry shop in the same district, killing three civilians and wounding 26 others, police said.
Hospital officials Baghdad confirmed the death toll. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
These recent attacks are seen as particularly dangerous because they coincide with both the departure of US troops, as well as a political crisis pitting Shiite officials against the largest Sunni-backed bloc.
The political battle erupted last month after the Shiite-led government issued an arrest warrant against Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, on terrorism charges, sending him into virtual exile in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. In protest, al-Hashemi’s Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc has been boycotting parliament and Cabinet sessions, bringing government work to a standstill.
Sunnis fear that without the US presence as a last-resort guarantor of a sectarian balance, the Shiite government will try to pick off their leaders one by one, as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tries to cement his own grip on power.