61 dead, over 100 wounded in Iraq bomb attacks
AFP BAGHDAD A SPATE of attacks against Shiite pilgrims and neighbourhoods in Iraq killed at least 61 people on Thursday as the country grapples with a weekslong political row that has stoked sectarian tensions.
The violence, which wounded more than 100, was the worst since 67 people died on December 22, soon after the crisis erupted when Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was charged with running a hit squad US troops pulled out.Unlike the December attacks, which mostly hit a variety of neighbourhoods in Baghdad, Thursday’s violence focused solely on Shiites.
It was quickly condemned by Iraq’s parliament speaker Osama al Nujaifi, a Sunni, as well as Iraq’s Shiite-majority neighbour Iran. “Political leaders fight each other for power, and we pay the price,” said Ahmed Khalaf, a labourer who was near the site of attacks in Baghdad neighbourhood of Sadr City. “How is it our fault if Hashemi is wanted, or someone else is wanted? Why should we pay instead of them?” The worst incident saw at least 38 people killed by a suicide attack on the outskirts of the southern city of Nasiriyah as pilgrims were walking to the shrine city of Karbala for Arbaeen commemorations.
“Hospitals in Nasiriyah have received 38 killed and 68 wounded,” said Hadi Badr al- Riyahi, head of the provincial health department in Dhi Qar, of which Nasiriyah is the capital.
Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam’s most revered figures, by the armies of the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
Five bomb attacks also struck two Shiite neighbourhoods in northern Baghdad, killed 23 people and wounded dozens more. In Kadhimiyah, car bombs exploded at around 9:00 am at adjoining intersections, said officials from the interior and defence ministries.
The blasts killed 14 people and wounded 37 others, the defence official said, while the interior ministry source put the toll at 15 dead and 31 wounded.
Several nearby vehicles and shops, as well as the facade of a newly built hotel, were badly damaged, an AFP journalist said.”Where are the security forces?” shouted 60-year-old Ashur Abdullah at Al-Zahra intersection in Kadhimiyah.”Where are the checkpoints? How did this happen here? The responsibility lies with the security forces.
“In Sadr City, a boobytrapped motorcycle exploded at around 7:00 am near a group of day labourers waiting to pick up work, killing seven and wounding 20 others, the interior ministry official said.A short time later, twin roadside bombs detonated near the district’s main hospital as victims were being ferried in, killing two more people and wounding 15, the official said.
The defence ministry official confirmed the toll. Security forces cordoned off the scenes of the blasts, and refused to allow journalists to enter, sparking the ire of residents.
“Why are you preventing the press and photographers from entering the scene?” shouted one 14 man in Kadhimiyah who declined to be identified.” Are you afraid that the world will see your failure?” Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki has backed off threats to fire ministers from the Sunnibacked Iraqiya bloc who have boycotted cabinet, the latest move to tone down the crisis.