Bombs targeting Sunnis kill at least 76 in Iraq

By Sameer N. Yacoub

Associated Press

Published: Friday, May 17 2013 2:42 p.m. MDT

Another blast struck a cafe in Fallujah, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding nine, according to police and hospital officials.

Ahmed Jassim, a 26-year-old taxi driver, had to take a wounded friend to the Fallujah hospital after the attack.

"We used to meet every Friday to smoke shisha (a water pipe) and we thought we would have a good time today, but things turned into explosions and victims," he said, waiting outside the hospital.

In Baghdad, a bomb exploded near a shopping center during the evening rush hour in the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah, killing 21 people and wounding 32. That was followed by another bomb in a commercial district in Dora, another Sunni neighborhood, which killed four people and wounded 22, according to officials.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

"It is not a coincidence that the attacks were concentrated in some areas of one sect and then moved the next day into areas of the other sect," said Jawad al-Hasnawi, a lawmaker with the bloc loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

"It is clear that terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and Baathists are trying hard to reignite the sectarian war in Iraq," he added. "But the government bears full responsibility for this security chaos and it has to take quick and serious measures in order to stop the bloodshed, instead of just blaming other political blocs."

Al-Hasnawi added: "Today and yesterday, the Iraqi people paid for the failure of government security forces. Everybody should expect darker days full of even deadlier attacks."

Iraqis have grown used to a cycle of high-profile bombings.

It was the deadliest day since Sept. 9, 2012, when 92 people were killed, according to an Associated Press tally.

The attacks on Sunnis came after two days of car bombs targeting Shiite areas in Baghdad and other attacks that left 33 dead on Wednesday and 21 dead on Thursday.

The violence against a Sunni Muslim house of worship represented a trend that has been on the rise. About 30 Sunni mosques have been attacked from mid-April to mid-May, killing more than 100 worshippers. It also comes against the backdrop of the civil war in neighboring Syria that also has taken on sectarian undertones and frequently spilled across the border.

In the southern city of Basra, hundreds of Iraqis attended the funeral of two Shiite fighters killed in Syria. Several such funerals have been held in recent months as Iraqi Shiite fighters have trickled into Syria to fight for President Bashar Assad's regime. The Assad government is dominated by the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, which is fighting mostly Sunni rebels.

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Associated Press writers Kim Gamel in Cairo and Nabil al-Jurani in Basra contributed to this report.

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