Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, August 2013
80 Iraqis Killed in Bomb Attacks
August 10, 2013
Scores killed in Baghdad bomb attacks
France 24, AFP, August 11, 2013
At least 80 people have died, and many more wounded, as a wave of car bombings hit the Iraqi capital on Saturday, marking the end of a Ramadan marred by bloodshed.
By News Wires (text)
Car bombs targeting cafes and markets in Baghdad were among a series of attacks that killed 41 people Saturday as Iraqis marked the end of their bloodiest Ramadan in years.
The blasts were the latest in spiralling violence that authorities have failed to stem, with bloodshed at its worst since 2008 amid worries of a return to the all-out sectarian war that blighted Iraq years ago.
The latest violence comes just weeks after massive assaults, claimed by Al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq, on prisons near Baghdad that freed hundreds of militants, with analysts warning of a resulting spike in unrest.
They also come as security officials trumpet a vast weeks-long security operation north of Baghdad that they say has led to the killing and capturing of numerous militants.
A series of car bombs struck eight different neighbourhoods -- predominantly Sunni, Shiite and confessionally mixed -- in apparently coordinated strikes as Iraqis marked the Eid al-Fitr holiday that follows the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The blasts struck public markets, cafes, and restaurants, killing 27 people overall, while violence earlier on Saturday killed two others, according to security and medical officials
The attacks came after another series of blasts hit Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 31 people.
Also on Saturday, north of the capital in Tuz Khurmatu, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle near a police checkpoint, killing nine people and wounding 48.
Elsewhere, three people were killed and five others wounded in separate attacks in Babil and Nineveh provinces.
More than 800 people were killed in attacks during Ramadan, which began in the second week of July and ended this week.
Militants struck targets ranging from cafes where Iraqis gathered after breaking their daily fast, to mosques where extended evening prayers were held during the month.
Violence has markedly increased this year, especially since an April 23 security operation at a Sunni Arab anti-government protest site that sparked clashes in which dozens died.
Protests erupted in Sunni-majority areas in late 2012, amid widespread discontent among Sunnis, who accuse the Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting them.
Analysts say Sunni anger is the main cause of the spike in violence this year.
In addition to security problems, the government is failing to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, and corruption is widespread.
Political squabbling has paralysed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.
Car bombs kill nearly 80 in Iraq, target Eid festivities
By Kareem Raheem and Ahmed Rasheed
Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:44pm EDT
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -
A series of car bombs in mainly Shi'ite areas of Baghdad killed 57 people and wounded more than 150 on Saturday, in what appeared to be coordinated attacks on people celebrating the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The 12 separate blasts targeting markets, busy shopping streets and parks where families like to mark Eid were part of a surge in sectarian violence in Iraq since the start of the year.
This has been one of the deadliest Ramadan months in years, with regular bomb attacks killing scores of people, especially in the capital. The latest bombings were similar to attacks in Baghdad on Tuesday in which 50 died.
More than 1,000 Iraqis have been killed in July, the highest monthly death toll since 2008, according to the United Nations.
The Interior Ministry has said the country faced an "open war" fuelled by Iraq's sectarian divisions and has ramped up security in Baghdad, closing roads and sending out frequent helicopter patrols.
Eighteen months since the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, Sunni Islamist militants have been regaining momentum in their insurgency against the Shi'ite-led government, and have been emboldened by the civil war in neighboring Syria.
On Saturday, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan said his region was prepared to defend Kurds living in neighboring Syria, in what appeared to be the first warning of a possible intervention and a further sign that the conflict is spilling over Syria's borders.
Outside Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in a car on a busy street in the town of Tuz Khurmato, 170 km (105 miles) north of the capital, killing at least 10 people and wounding 45, medical and police sources said.
Tuz Khurmato is located in a particularly violent region over which both the central government and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan claim jurisdiction.
Police believe the bomber was trying to reach the local headquarters of a Kurdish political party, but was unable to reach the building because of increased security in the area, a police source said.
In the town of Nassiriya, 300 km (185 miles) southeast of Baghdad, twin car bombs near a park killed six people and wounded 25, police and medical sources said.
Pictures showed metal shop fronts contorted by one of the blasts, with blackened scraps of debris littering the ground. Two tires on an axle were all that was left of one of the cars used in the attack.
Car bombs also hit the Shi'ite city of Kerbala, killing four and wounding 11, and targeted a Shi'ite mosque in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing one worshipper and wounding five.
Tensions between Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni factions in Iraq's power-sharing government have been rising, and the renewed violence has sparked fears of a return to the sectarian slaughter of 2006-2007.
Iraqis have endured extreme violence for years, but since the since the start of 2013 the intensity of attacks on civilians has dramatically increased, reversing a trend that had seen the country grow more peaceful.
In recent months insurgents have moved beyond attacking shopping districts to targeting youths playing football and people watching matches on television at the Baghdad cafes which have dared to stay open.
(Additional reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud in Kirkuk, Gassan Hassan in Tikrit, Ali al-Rubaie in Hilla and Aref Mohammed in Basra; Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Sonya Hepinstall)
Iraq's July 2013 death toll at 1,000, worst month since 2008
France 24, afp, August 1, 2013
Violence in Iraq killed some 1,000 people in July, the highest death toll seen in any month since 2008, the UN said on Thursday. Iraq's bloody sectarian conflict, in which thousands died in Sunni-Shiite violence, peaked in 2006-2007.
By News Wires (text)
Violence in Iraq, from bombings against cafes to assaults on prisons, killed about 1,000 people in July, more than any month since 2008, when the country was emerging from a bloody sectarian conflict.
"We haven't seen such numbers in more than five years, when the blind rage of sectarian strife that inflicted such deep wounds upon this country was finally abating," UN envoy Gyorgy Busztin said in a statement.
Iraq was racked by a bloody Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict that peaked in 2006-2007, when thousands of people were killed because of their religious affiliation or forced to abandon their homes under threat of death.
"I reiterate my urgent call on Iraq's political leaders to take immediate and decisive action to stop the senseless bloodshed, and to prevent these dark days from returning," Busztin said.
According to Iraqi government figures, 989 people were killed in July, making it the deadliest month since April 2008.
The vast majority of the dead were civilians, though Iraqi security forces were also targeted in attacks.
The United Nations put the toll for July at 1,057 people killed, while AFP counted 875 deaths.
Tolls vary depending on sources and methodology, and officials in Iraq often give differing numbers in the chaotic aftermath of attacks.
But all show that the security situation in Iraq is worsening.
Illustrating the severity of the violence, UN figures show more than twice as many civilians were killed in Iraq during the first six months of 2013 than over the same period in Afghanistan.
In one of the month's deadliest attacks, a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a cafe in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing 41 people.
Militants regularly targeted cafes, where Iraqis often meet after breaking their daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and also attacked mosques, where extended evening prayers are held during the month.
Al-Qaeda front group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed attacks on Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons in July that killed over 50 people and saw more than 500 inmates, including senior Al-Qaeda leaders, escape.
"The prison attacks demonstrate that the security forces are poorly resourced and unable to protect what should have been well-defended facilities," said John Drake, an Iraq specialist with risk management firm AKE Group.
And in an incident reminiscent of the worst years of sectarian conflict in Iraq, militants set up a checkpoint on a highway north of Baghdad, examined the ID cards of truck drivers and then executed 14 who were Shiite Muslims.
"We don't go out of the house anymore. You go to the cafe, you get killed, you go to your car, you get killed, you go to the supermarket, you get killed," 47-year-old Imad said in the Iraqi capital.
Officials should "fix politics so security gets better, but (a) political solution in this country needs a miracle," he said.
Widespread discontent among members of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority is a major factor behind the heightened violence this year, experts say.
"There is widespread frustration with the predominantly Shiite government and security forces amongst the Sunni community, because they feel marginalised and persecuted," said Drake.
"The terrorists, most of whom are radicalised Sunnis, are conducting attacks against the government and security forces to try and capitalise on this frustration," he said.
"Animosity towards the government is also likely to persist as long as the security forces use excessive force to arrest suspects and deal with protests in predominantly Sunni parts of the country," Drake said.
Protests broke out in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq at the end of 2012, and are still ongoing.
International Crisis Group Iraq analyst Maria Fantappie said an April 23 security forces operation at a protest camp near the town of Hawijah, which sparked clashes that killed dozens, was a key factor in the unrest.
"I think that it's very important to see Hawijah as the turning point for the violence," Fantappie said.
The incident triggered the reactivation of some insurgent groups in the north and also corresponded to increasing Al-Qaeda activity and sectarian attacks -- three main factors driving the heightened violence, she said.
It is ultimately up to the government to act to curb the violence, she said, with negotiating local ceasefires with Sunni officials being one option.
The government "was part of the problem, and it is part of the solution," Fantappie said. "It's the only actor that can bring things (back) on track."
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