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Iraq attacks push May death toll past 600

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Fears of an all-out sectarian conflict

The scene of one of the two car bombs that exploded in Baghdad’s Habibiyah area on Monday.— Photo: AFP
The scene of one of the two car bombs that exploded in Baghdad’s Habibiyah area on Monday.— Photo: AFP

Attacks in Iraq, the deadliest of which struck Baghdad, killed 26 people on Thursday, pushing the death toll for this month above 600 and sparking fears of all-out sectarian conflict.

The U.N. has called for Iraq’s leaders to urgently hold talks to resolve wide-ranging political disputes that have been linked to the surge in unrest.

But the government’s public response has so far largely been limited to speeches, a shakeup of senior security officers and announcing a series of vague new measures relating to security.

“If there is a political agreement, then security will be better. We see it on the contrary right now — there is no political agreement, and sectarian violence is on the rise,” U.N. envoy Martin Kobler told AFP by telephone from Berlin.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari echoed those remarks, telling reporters at a news conference in Baghdad: “If there is no political agreement, then it will affect security, and there won’t be a stable security situation.”

On Thursday, five car bombs and two other explosions in Baghdad killed 21 people and wounded at least 71, security and medical officials said.

Violence a day earlier, including a bombing against a bridal party in south Baghdad, killed 28 people. Security forces on Thursday barred journalists from attending the funeral for victims of the wedding party assault.

And 46 more died in unrest on Tuesday.

The latest attacks took to 603 the number of people killed in May, with more than 1,000 having died in less than two months, according to AFP figures based on reports by security and medical sources.

The tolls are still markedly lower than the worst of Iraq’s sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007, when death tolls could run to well over 1,000 people a month, but represent a substantial increase on previous months.

Iraq has seen a heightened level of violence since the beginning of the year, coinciding with rising discontent among the Sunni Arab minority, which erupted into protests in late December.

Members of the minority, which ruled the country from its establishment after World War I until Saddam Hussein's overthrow by US-led forces in 2003, accuse the Shia-led government of marginalising and targeting their community.

Analysts say government policies that have disenfranchised Sunnis have given militant groups in Iraq both fuel and room to manoeuvre among the disillusioned community. — AFP


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