107 dead - Iraq deadliest day in 2 years

2012-07-23 16:04
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

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Baghdad - A wave of attacks across Iraq on Monday killed 107 people in the country's deadliest day in more than two years after al-Qaeda warned it would mount new attacks and sought to retake territory.

Officials said at least 214 people were wounded in 27 different attacks launched in 18 cities, shattering a relative calm which had held in the lead-up to the start on Saturday of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

In Monday's deadliest attack - a string of roadside bombs and a car bomb followed by a suicide attack targeting emergency responders in the town of Taji - at least 42 people were killed and 40 wounded, according to two medical officials.

"I heard explosions in the distance so I left my house and I saw a car outside," said 40-year-old Taji resident Abu Mohammed, who added that police inspectors concluded the vehicle was a car bomb.

"We asked the neighbours to leave their houses, but when they were leaving, the bomb went off."

Abu Mohammed said he witnessed the deaths of an elderly woman carrying a newborn baby and of the policeman who had first concluded the car was packed with explosives.

An AFP reporter at the scene said a row of houses were completely destroyed, and residents were rummaging through the rubble in search of victims and their belongings.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, a car bomb outside a government office responsible for producing identity papers in the Shi'ite bastion of Sadr City killed at least 12 people and wounded 22 others, security and medical officials said.

"This attack is a terrible crime against humanity, because they did it during Ramadan, while people are fasting," said one elderly witness who declined to be identified.

Base attacked

An AFP journalist said eight nearby cars were badly burned and many of the victims of the 09:30 (06:30 GMT) attack could not be identified because their papers were inside the offices that were targeted.

Two other explosions in the Baghdad neighbourhoods of Husseiniyah and Yarmuk killed at least four people and left 24 others wounded, while a car bomb in the town of Tarmiyah, just north of Baghdad, hurt nine people, officials said.

Checkpoint shootings and bomb blasts in restive ethnically-mixed Diyala province killed 11 people and left 40 others wounded, security officials and doctor Ahmed Ibrahim from the main hospital in provincial capital Baquba said.

Insurgents also launched attacks on a military base near the town of Dhuluiyah, killing at least 15 Iraqi soldiers and leaving two others wounded, according to two security officials.

Two other attacks in the same province - a shooting at a checkpoint and a car bomb near a Shi'ite mosque - left three people dead and six wounded, officials said.

Nine bomb blasts, some of them minutes apart, meanwhile killed seven people and wounded 29 in Kirkuk city and the eponymous province's towns of Dibis and Tuz Khurmatu.

Three different attacks - a car bomb, a roadside blast and a shooting - in the main northern city of Mosul and the nearby town of Baaj left nine people dead and seven wounded, according to Iraqi army First Lieutenant Waad Mohammed and police Lieutenant Mohammed al-Juburi.

A roadside bomb at a market in the centre of the town of Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad, killed three people and left 25 hurt, provincial health chief Adnan Turki said.

In the western town of Heet, a car bomb exploded near an army patrol, killing one soldier and wounding 10 others, according to an Iraqi army captain and doctor Abdulwahab al-Shammari from the town hospital.

Two years

The attacks came a day after a spate of bombings across Iraq killed at least 17 people and wounded nearly 100 others. Monday's toll was the highest since 10 May 2010, when 110 people were killed.

The latest violence comes after the country suffered a spike in unrest in June when at least 282 people were killed, according to an AFP tally based on figures supplied by officials and medics, although government figures said 131 Iraqis died.

Although those figures are markedly lower than during the peak of Iraq's communal bloodshed from 2006 to 2008, attacks remain common.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday's attacks, but al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq has warned in recent days that it seeks to retake territory in the country.

The Islamic State of Iraq warned in an audio message posted on various jihadist forums that it would begin targeting judges and prosecutors, and appealed for the help of Sunni tribes in its quest to recapture territory it once held.

"We are starting a new stage," said the voice on the message, purportedly that of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has been leader of the Islamic State of Iraq since May 2010.

"The first priority in this is releasing Muslim prisoners everywhere, and chasing and eliminating judges and investigators and their guards."

It was not possible to verify whether the voice was that of Baghdadi.

The speaker added: "On the occasion of the beginning of the return of the state to the areas that we left, I urge you to carry out more efforts, and send your sons with the mujahedeen to defend your religion and obey God."

Read more on:    iraq  |  security
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