Iraq witnessed a fresh string of deadly bomb attacks and shootings this week, with over a hundred people reportedly killed.
On Thursday, medical officials confirmed that at least 48 people died in this week’s deadliest attack when a bomb exploded at an outdoor vegetable market in the northeastern town of Sadiya.
Meanwhile, in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber set off his belt laden with explosives at an army checkpoint, leaving 6 soldiers dead and 12 wounded.
A number of other car bombs went off in busy commercial areas of northern and western Baghdad, killing a total of 9 people and wounding dozens more. In Baghdad’s southeastern neighbourhood of Bayaa, gunmen attacked a supermarket, killing its two owners and wounding 2 shoppers.
On Friday, shortly after midday prayers, two roadside bombs went off near Sunni mosques in the southern and western outskirts of Baghdad, killing 3 worshippers and wounding 12, according to local police.
On Saturday, a car bomb and suicide bomber killed at least 9 people and left a further 54 wounded in the town of Tuz Khurmato in northern Iraq. Police and medical sources reported that the car bomb was detonated in a busy market close to a Shi’ite mosque and was followed shortly after by a suicide bombing.
While no group has claimed responsibility for these attacks, the Iraqi government has blamed Sunni militias, including al Qaeda, for trying to enflame sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shi’as.
Sunni militant groups have certainly stepped up attacks across the country in recent months, killing scores of Iraqi civilians and soldiers. These attacks are partly fuelled by resentment among Iraq’s Sunni population against its government and partly due to external influence emanating from the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Meanwhile, many fear former Shi‘a militias, which have mostly joined the national security forces since giving up their arms, will be pushed to rearm and revamp their activities in the face of a growing and worsening Sunni insurgency.
A council of senior clerics called on Sunni mosques to close in protest against the lack of security for their communities, blaming government security forces for not doing enough to keep Sunni areas safe. On Saturday a number of Sunni mosques in Baghdad did in fact close, while others in the city centre remained open.
According to the United Nations, 979 people, including police and military personnel, have been killed in violent attacks in October, while more than 6,500 civilians have died since January. This makes 2013 the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008.
Growing sectarian tensions and continuing spillover from the Syrian conflict do not bode well for reaching a peaceful solution to this ongoing violence. One can only hope that the violence does not escalate to levels witnessed during Iraq’s civil war period of 2006-7 and that the Iraqi population pushes back against minority militia groups attempting to instigate further violence between different sects.
From Muftah Org.