Attacks stunning in their scope
Rapid-fire bombings and mortar strikes killed 76 people and wounded more than 200 across Baghdad's myriad neighbourhoods late on Tuesday, demonstrating the insurgents' ability to carry out coordinated strikes from one side of the capital to the other.
The attack — blasts in at least 13 separate neighbourhoods — was clearly designed to hit civilians at restaurants and cafes where many Iraqis were gathered to enjoy the warm evening. The sophistication and the targets — Shias — suggested that Al-Qaeda-linked Sunni militants were responsible for the deadliest day in Iraq since May.
The strikes, two days after the bloody siege of a downtown church, were stunning in their scope — indicating a high degree of coordination and complexity from an insurgency that just a few months ago U.S. and Iraqi officials were saying was all but defeated.
“They say the situation is under the control. Where is their control?” said a resident of Baghdad's sprawling Sadr City slum, where 21 people were killed when a parked car blew up near a market in Tuesday's deadliest bombing.
The bombings began at about 6.15 p.m. and lasted for hours. The assailants used booby-trapped cars and a motorcycle, roadside bombs and mortars. Though 10 neighbourhoods targeted were home to mostly Shias, a couple of strikes hit Sunni communities as well.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on Al-Qaeda.
“We do not have any conclusive information at this time as to the responsible parties but this seems to be typical AQI (Al—Qaeda in Iraq) tactics,” said Lt.-Col. Eric Bloom, a U.S. military spokesman.
Fearing retribution for the attack, police on loudspeakers told people in the Sunni neighbourhood of Azamiyah to stay home. In Sadr City, police ordered people to go home.
The surge in violence is raising fresh concerns about the planned pullout of American troops next year. The U.S. now has just under 50,000 troops in Iraq, down from a wartime high of 170,000.
A State Department audit concluded Tuesday that the Obama administration could be overstating what U.S. diplomats can do to contain Iraq's ethnic and sectarian tensions without U.S. military forces. — AP