Bombings and shootings around Iraq killed 22 people and wounded more than 50 on Thursday, authorities said, as a spike in violence made June Iraq's bloodiest month in almost a half a year.
Bombings and shootings around Iraq killed 22 people and wounded more than 50 on Thursday, authorities said, as a spike in violence made June Iraq’s bloodiest month in almost a half a year.
The attacks in Shiite neighborhoods and on security forces underscore how deadly Iraq remains, even though violence has dropped dramatically since a few years ago when the country appeared about to descend into civil war. Over the last month, more than 200 Iraqis have been killed in attacks.
Thursday’s deadliest strike came around 9:30 a.m. in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Washash in western Baghdad, where eyewitnesses said a taxi exploded outside a local market. Eight people died and 26 were injured, police and hospital officials said.
Hadil Maytham and her two children were eating breakfast in their nearby house when they heard the explosion.
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“It shook the doors and the windows of the house,” said Maytham, 28. “Then we heard shooting, probably by police who usually shoot randomly after explosions.”
Bombings generally are a hallmark of Sunni Muslim insurgents linked to al-Qaida, and Shiites remain one of their main targets. Earlier Thursday, a roadside bomb in a Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad exploded as a police patrol was passing by, killing one person and wounding six.
Two more attacks on Shiite enclaves in northwest Baghdad wounded five more people, police said.
And in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, another car bomb wounded seven people in the parking lot of the provincial council. The largely Sunni province’s deputy governor Dhari Arkan said the explosion early in the morning was designed to shake confidence in the government.
“The message of the terrorists is that no place is safe in Iraq,” Arkan said.
Baghdad operations command spokesman Col. Dhia al-Wakil said no overall conclusion about Iraq’s security can be drawn from Thursday’s attacks, which he said are believed to be unrelated. He described Iraq’s security as “generally stable, and these attacks by no means should be taken as an indication that the terrorists are able to defy our security forces.”
He said security forces had defused several car bombs recently and arrested suspects believed to be behind this month’s wave of violence. He declined to give further details.
While Shiite neighborhoods and ceremonies are a favorite al-Qaida target, Sunnis affiliated with the government and security forces also frequently come under attack.
In the Sunni city of Taji, just north of Baghdad, two cars parked about 100 meters (yards) apart from each other exploded outside the office of the local mayor at dawn, police said. The mayor was not in his office at the time, but the blast killed five people and wounded 18, leaving craters in nearby homes.
Taji is home to a military base and is located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Baghdad. Police officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
In the troubled province of Diyala, gunmen walked into a butcher shop in the provincial capital of Baqouba and shot dead two former Sunni militiamen who fought against al-Qaida. A separate attack on a checkpoint killed two more militia members and two police.
Police Maj. Ghalib Al-Karkhi said the gunmen used pistols fitted with silencers to assassinate the former members of the Sahwa or Awakening militia, which broke away from the insurgency to join U.S. troops in fighting al-Qaida at the height of the war. Sahwa members are frequent targets of the insurgents, who consider them traitors.
Gunmen in two cars also opened fire on a checkpoint in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, killing two police officers and two Sahwa militiamen, police and hospital officials said.
Two more Sahwa members were shot and killed while manning a checkpoint in the central city of Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
While violence has dramatically dropped from the wide scale sectarian fighting between 2006 and 2008, deadly bombings and shootings in Iraq still happen almost every day.
The recent increase in attacks comes as the government is embroiled in a months-long political crisis in Iraq that has Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds calling for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resign for sidelining his political opponents. The impasse has all but paralyzed the government.
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.