Bombs, shootings kill several people in Iraq
BAGHDAD – Bombings and shootings in Iraq killed 13 people on Sunday, as the death toll from a coordinated wave of late-night car bombings and other attacks the day before jumped past 70, authorities said.
The explosions were the latest in a relentless surge in bloodshed that has rocked Iraq since the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on July 10. They follow months of surging violence across the country that is raising fears of a return to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In another sign of the deteriorating security situation, insurgents detonated two bombs outside Taji prison, 12 miles north of Baghdad. Then they lobbed mortar shells at the compound before opening fire on prison guards as rioting inmates set fire to blankets and furniture, according to police. They said prison guards were eventually able to restore order.
Gunmen also clashed with guards at a prison in Abu Ghraib in Baghdad’s western suburbs, police said.
No casualties were reported in either of the evening prison attacks.
Earlier in the day, a bomb exploded in a fish market in Taji, killing four and wounding 15, according to police.
Another bomb exploded outside the house of an anti-al-Qaida Sunni militia leader in the town of Basmaiya, killing two and wounding four. The town is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the Iraqi capital.
The deadliest of Sunday’s attacks came in the afternoon, when gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by the Kurdish security forces known as peshmerga near Kirkuk, killing five of them. The oil-rich city of Kirkuk is 180 miles north of Baghdad.
Gunmen also sprayed a security checkpoint with bullets in the restive city of Mosul in the north, killing two soldiers.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. The officials provided details of the attacks and casualties on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to reporters.
Meanwhile, Baghdad residents were picking up the pieces from a blistering wave of violence late the previous night.
As the scale of the carnage became clearer early Sunday, police reported that a total of 12 car bombs went off in Baghdad late Saturday. They said the blasts and a shooting in the same area as one of the explosions killed 57, including some who died in the hospital overnight. More than 125 were reported wounded.
Saturday night’s blasts went off after the sundown “iftar” meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast. Streets during the holy month are often filled with people out shopping and relaxing in cafes in the evenings, suggesting the attackers aimed to hit as many civilians as possible.
“What crime have those innocent people committed?” asked Kadim Mohsen, who was surveying the damage in the central neighborhood of Karrada. Several storefronts were wrecked by the force of an explosion there, and broken watermelons and sandals littered the street.
“Who will compensate owners of those shops?” he asked. “We see explosions every day. We blame the army and police.”
Those attacks and others around Iraq on Saturday killed a total of 71, according to police and hospital officials. That made for the country’s deadliest day since May 17, when a series of explosions in Sunni areas in and around Baghdad killed at least 76 people.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the latest attacks, although coordinated bombings against Shiites are a favorite tactic of al-Qaida’s Iraq branch.
Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi urged security forces not to give up their fight against violent extremists, while demanding that they do more to prevent security breaches. Al-Nujaifi is a Sunni who is frequently critical of the Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
“We strongly condemn the evil and criminal attacks that targeted our people,” he said. “These attacks are part of heinous efforts that aim to ignite unrest and sectarian strife.”
Al-Maliki ordered a shake-up among the military brass in May in the wake of a series of deadly attacks, but the move appears to have done little to slow the pace of the killing.
More than 450 people have been killed so far this month, including at least 284 since Ramadan began, according to an Associated Press count.