A series of blasts and shootings in Iraq has brought the single-day death toll for brutal attacks in the country to 111 victims, including 16 Iraqi soldiers. With 268 wounded, the attacks signal the country's worst outbreak of violence in two years.
The deadliest series of the attacks occurred in Taji, a town not far from Baghdad, with at least 42 dead and 40 wounded, AFP reports, quoting local officials. A string of roadside bombs went off, destroying a row of houses, Iraqi officials say. This was followed by a car bomb blast and a suicide bombing targeting emergency workers who had arrived to the scene.
At least 15 soldiers were killed in a militant attack on a military base near the town of Dhuluiyah, security officials said.
In Baghdad, 12 people were killed after a car bomb went off next to a government office. Two other blasts in the capital’s neighborhoods killed four and left 27 wounded.
Eleven people were killed in checkpoint shootings and bomb explosions in the Diyala province.
Nine consecutive bomb blasts in the northern Kikuk province killed seven and wounded 29.
A car bombing, a roadside blast and a shooting killed nine in the northern city of Mosul and the nearby town of Baaj.
A market explosion in the town of Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad, left three dead and wounded 10 others.
One soldier was killed after a car loaded with explosives went off next to an army patrol in the western town of Heer.
The coordinated attacks have mostly targeted Shia Muslims sites and locations, indicating a potential sectarian motive behind the freshest spat of violence.
Iraqi Al-Qaeda consists mostly of Sunni Muslim militants which regularly target a Shia-led government on friendly terms with neighboring Iran.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed leader of the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda, has announced a resurgence of terrorist activities in the country.
He said that al-Qaeda would embark on an operation called “Breaking the Walls,” which entailed missions to free imprisoned al-Qaeda members and a parallel push to reclaim territory they were previously forced to abandon.
He called for the support of tribal leaders to help the terrorist group in their fight to reoccupy key areas.
An unnamed Iraqi official shared with Reuters that the attacks are intended to trigger a Shia-Sunni sectarian war in Iraq. “They want things to be as bad as in Syria,” he said.
Local officials have confirmed the deaths, but it is not yet clear who is behind the attacks.
The death toll in the string of attacks is the highest of any single day since December 8, 2009, when 127 people were killed.
Jim Brann of the Stop the War coalition believes that those who organized the bombings are capable of causing as much havoc and violence as existed several years ago.
“We have to assume that those forces are as capable of doing now what they did in the 2005-2008 period,” he noted to RT. “Also we have to assume that they have some definite form of outside backing, so that there may well be outside personnel involved.”
Brann said the US wants the situation in Iraq to remain relatively unstable, but not out of control.
“They certainly wouldn’t want to eliminate the problem, because that would reduce their bargaining power,” Brann stressed. “There is this great battle being fought out for control and influence. On one side stands Saudi Arabia, backed, in general, by the United States and NATO, and on the other side stands Iran.”
Robert Naiman, policy director at Just Foreign Policy, an independent organization promoting US foreign policy reform, stressed that the international community could do more to curb the sectarian violence that has engulfed the region.
“There is a trend in the region towards increasing sectarian violence, and clearly, there are money and guns available for people that want to fuel that violence,” he told RT. “I think that there is a gap in terms of international response in trying to tamp this down. There could be more pressure against the flow of money and guns that is supporting sectarian violence.”
Michael O’Brien, author of “America’s Failure in Iraq”, shared with RT that it was the American invasion of Iraq that totally destabilized the country, because there was a “very simplistic, very cavalier attitude of the Bush administration” towards the complicated interfaith relations in Iraq.
“[Then you get] the tension between the Sunni and the Shia. Saddam [Hussein] was a Sunni, which is the minority of the population. Al-Qaeda, all they want to do in Iraq is: they kill Sunnis so that the Shias take the blame; they kill Shias, so that the Sunnis take the blame. They really don’t care. All they want to do is kill people and form unrest,” O’Brien said.
RT’s Gayane Chichakyan on the Iraqi terror acts from a Washington perspective.