A string of nearly a dozen apparently coordinated bombs and a shooting killed at least 30 and wounded dozens across Iraq yesterday, extending a wave of violence that is raising fears of a return to secatarian war a decade after the US-led invasion.
Violence has spiked sharply in Iraq in recent months, with the death toll rising to levels not seen since 2008. Nearly 2,000 people have been killed since the start of April.
Most of the car bombs yesterday hit Shiite-majority areas and were the cause of most of the casualties, killing 26. The blasts hit half a dozen cities and towns in the south and center of the country.
The blasts began when a parked car bomb went off early morning in an industrial area in the city of Kut, killing three people and wounding 14 others. That was followed by another car bomb outside the city targeting a gathering of construction workers that killed two and wounded 12, police said.
In the nearby oil-rich city of Basra, a car bomb exploded in a downtown street, police said. As police and rescuers rushed to the scene of the initial blast, the second car exploded. A total of six people were reported killed.
About an hour later, two parked car bombs ripped through two neighborhoods in the southern city of Nasiriyah, killing one and wounding 17, a police officer said. In the town of Mahmoudiya, two civilians were killed and nine wounded when a car bomb went off in a market.
In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, a blast struck a produce market, killing eight and wounding 28, while in Madain, a roadside bomb and then a car bomb exploded, killing three and wounding 14. Near Hillah, a car bomb exploded in a parking lot, killing one and wounding nine.
The shooting happened near the northern city of Mosul. Iraqi police officials say gunmen attacked police guarding a remote stretch of an oil pipeline, killing four and wounding five. Mosul, about 360km northwest of Baghdad, has been the scene of some of the deadliest unrest outside the Baghdad area in recent weeks.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
There was no claim of responsibility for any of the attacks, but they bore the hallmark of al-Qaeda.
The attacks came a day after al-Qaeda in Iraqi leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi defiantly rejected an order from the terror network’s central command to stop claiming control over the organization’s Syrian affiliate, according to a message purportedly from him. The comments reveal his group’s determination to link its own fight against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad with the cause of rebels trying to topple the Iran-backed Syrian regime.
The violence also followed a deadly attack on Saturday on a camp near Baghdad housing Iranian exiles. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack involving at least six mortar rounds.
An Iraqi police colonel put the toll at three dead and 11 wounded.
Shahriar Kia, a spokesman for Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) residents at Camp Liberty, said two were killed and more than 30 wounded.
Kia criticized the UN for not agreeing to move Liberty residents back to their original base at Camp Ashraf near the border with Iran.
Saturday’s attack was the second assault this year on Camp Liberty, which has about 3,000 residents.
MEK members were moved to Camp Liberty last year at Iraq’s insistence from Ashraf, their paramilitary camp of the 1980s. Camp Ashraf was the base that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein allowed the group to establish during Iraq’s eight-year war with Iran.
The MEK was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, but says it is now working to overthrow the Iranian regime by peaceful means.