Iraqi towns rocked by deadly blasts

Eighteen people were killed and more than 50 injured when bombs struck two Sunni towns at sundown, just as Iraqis were preparing to break their holy day’s fast.

Eighteen people were killed and more than 50 injured when bombs struck two Sunni towns at sundown, just as Iraqis were preparing to break their holy day’s fast.

Two earlier bomb blasts killed a policeman and wounded dozens of people.

Yesterday’s multiple bomb attacks shows that deadly violence is still common and in some places even worsening in Iraq, seven months after the US pulled its last troops out of the country.

Most of the attacks bear the hallmarks of Sunni Muslim insurgents linked to al-Qaida, targeting Shiites and their holy sites as well as security forces working for the Shiite-led government.

The two latest bombings, however, struck predominantly Sunni towns. So far, Shiite militants have resisted striking back at Sunnis. It was not immediately clear if yesterday’s bombings were retaliation.

The first sundown attack, in the town of Mahmoudiya, was the deadliest – a double bombing in which the second seemed aimed at hitting people who came to help victims of the first blast.

A car exploded at about 7pm in a car park for minibuses in the town, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. As emergency responders sprang into action, a second car blew up.

Twelve people were killed in the double blast, including two policemen, officials said. Another 36 were wounded.

Ten minutes later and about 12 miles away, two roadside bombs struck an open-air market in Madain, another Sunni town south east of the capital. Officials said six people were killed and 15 wounded.

Together, the four bombs struck just as Iraqis were preparing to break their daylong fast that marks the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. They followed two earlier attacks yesterday that killed a policeman and injured 33 people in the northern Sunni city of Mosul and the Shiite holy city of Najaf in Iraq’s south.

The leader of al Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq issued an online statement claiming that the militant network was returning to strongholds it was driven from before the American withdrawal last December.

In an audio recording that identified the speaker as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State of Iraq since 2010, the militant group claimed it was preparing operations to free prisoners and assassinate court officials.

“The majority of the Sunnis in Iraq support al-Qaida and are waiting for its return,” al-Baghdadi said in the statement, posted on a militant website.

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