At least 55 die in Iraq attacks23/02/2012 - 17:06:42
A rapid series of attacks spread over a wide area of Iraq killed at least 55 people today, targeting mostly security forces in what appeared to be another strike by al-Qaida militants.
The apparently co-ordinated bombings and shootings unfolded over a number of hours in the capital Baghdad – where most of the deaths occurred – and 11 other cities.
They struck government offices, restaurants and one in the town of Musayyib hit close to a primary school. At least 225 people were wounded.
“What is happening today are not simple security violations – it is a huge security failure and disaster,” said Ahmed al-Tamimi, who was working at an Education Ministry office a block away from a restaurant that was bombed in northern Baghdad.
“We want to know: What were the thousands of policemen and soldiers in Baghdad doing today while the terrorists were roaming the city and spreading violence?” he said.
It was the latest in a series of large-scale attacks that insurgents have launched every few weeks since the last US troops left Iraq in mid-December at the end of a nearly nine-year war.
The Interior Ministry blamed al-Qaida insurgents for the violence.
“These attacks are part of frantic attempts by the terrorist groups to show that the security situation in Iraq will not ever be stable,” the ministry said in a statement. “These attacks are part of al-Qaida efforts to deliver a message to its supporters that al-Qaida is still operating inside Iraq, and it has the ability to launch strikes inside the capital or other cities and towns.”
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but targeting security officials is a hallmark of al-Qaida.
The ongoing nature of the violence and the fact that insurgents are able to launch a variety of attacks over a wide territory in Iraq shows the country is still deeply unstable, despite government assurances it could protect itself when American troops left in December.
The violence points to a dangerous gap in the abilities of the Iraqi security forces that had particularly worried the departing US military: their ability to gather intelligence on insurgent groups and stop them before they launch deadly attacks.
Gathering information on militants and their networks was a key area in which the US military helped their Iraqi counterparts.
A senior Iraqi defence intelligence official said the attacks appeared to have been planned for at least one month. He predicted they aimed to frighten diplomats from attending the Arab League’s annual summit that is scheduled to be held in Baghdad in late March.
Nationwide, security forces appeared to have been targeted in at least 14 separate attacks, including a drive-by shooting in Baghdad that killed six policemen at a checkpoint before dawn.
Police patrols in the capital and beyond also were besieged by roadside bombs and, in one case, a suicide bomber who blew up his car outside a police station in the city of Baqouba, 35 miles north-east of Baghdad.
Iraq’s police are generally considered to be the weakest element of the country’s security forces, and 20 were killed earlier this week by a suicide bomber outside the Baghdad police academy that angry residents blamed on political feuding.
But the latest violence spilled onto commuters, restaurant patrons, passers-by and school children as well.
In the single deadliest strike, a car bomb in Baghdad’s downtown shopping district of Karradah killed nine people and wounded 26. The blast effects could be felt blocks away, shaking buildings and windows.
In Musayyib, a car bomb parked on the street between a restaurant and a school killed three people and wounded 75. Most of the injured were school children, said police and health officials.
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