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Dozens dead in spate of Baghdad bombings amid Iraqi political turmoil

It’s feared a political spat between the country’s two senior politicians could lead to a re-emergence of sectarian violence.

Iraq's two senior political figures are at odds with each other, Tariq al-Hashemi (L) and Nouri al-Maliki (R) (File photo)
Iraq's two senior political figures are at odds with each other, Tariq al-Hashemi (L) and Nouri al-Maliki (R) (File photo)
Image: IRAQI GOVERNMENT/AP/Press Association Images

A SERIES OF blasts in Baghdad this morning has killed dozens and injured over a hundred in a coordinated attack designed to wreak havoc across the Iraqi capital.

An Iraq health ministry spokesman said there were 49 dead and 167 injured with the toll climbing. The blasts were the worst violence to hit the country since a political crisis between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite factions erupted this weekend.

The political spat, which pits Iraq’s Shiite prime minister against the highest-ranking Sunni political leader, has raised fears that Iraq’s sectarian wounds will be reopened.

Iraqi officials said at least 12 blasts went off early this morning in nine neighborhoods around the city. The violence ranged from sticky bombs attached to cars to roadside bombs and vehicles packed with explosives.

Most of the violence appeared to hit Shiite neighborhoods although some Sunni areas were also targeted.

Precarious time

The worst attack was in the al-Amal neighborhood where seven people were killed in a blast that appeared to target rescuers and officials who came to the scene after a previous explosion.

At least four people were killed in one western Baghdad neighborhood when two roadside bombs exploded.

All the information came from police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

In the southwestern neighborhood of Karrada, where one of the victims was killed, sirens could be heard as ambulances rushed to the scene and a large plume of smoke rose over the explosion site.

“My baby was sleeping in her bed. Shards of glass have fallen on our heads. Her father hugged her and carried her. She is now scared in the next room,” said one woman in western Baghdad who identified herself as Um Hanin.

“All countries are stable. Why don’t we have security and stability?”

While Baghdad and Iraq have gotten much safer over the years, explosions like Thursday’s are still commonplace. They come at a precarious time in Iraq’s political history, just days after American troops pulled out of Iraq.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi of running a hit squad that targeted government officials. Al-Maliki is also pushing for a vote of no-confidence against another Sunni politician, the deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Political turmoil

Many Sunnis fear that this is part of a wider campaign to go after Sunni political figures in general and shore up Shiite control across the country at a critical time when all American troops have left Iraq.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the morning’s violence. But the coordinated nature of the assault and the fact that the attacks took place in numerous neighborhoods suggested a planning capability only available to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Many of the neighborhoods were also Shiite areas which are a favorite target of Al Qaeda. The Sunni extremist group often targets Shiites who they believe are not true Muslims.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is severely debilitated from its previous strength in the early years of the war, but is still able to launch coordinated and deadly assaults from time to time.

US military officials have said they’re worried about a resurgence of Al Qaeda after the American military leaves the country. If that happens, it could lead Shiite militants to fight back and attack Sunni targets, thus sending Iraq back to the sectarian violence it experienced just a few years ago.

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Associated Press

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