August 20, 2009 in News
Baghdad yesterday suffered a string of attacks that left more than 95 people dead in the latest sign that violence in Iraq has intensified in the wake of a handover from US troops to Iraqi security forces.
The attacks also wounded at least 500 in the bloodiest day in the capital since US troops withdrew from the country’s cities in late June. The two deadliest bombings were at the finance and foreign ministries, which are among the most heavily guarded buildings in Baghdad, Iraqi authorities said.
Separately, at least six mortars rained down on two central locations, Iraqi officials said. Three of these were aimed at the Green Zone, the fortified enclave where the US embassy and many Iraqi government offices are located.
“We expected these types of attacks to occur leading up to and after the 30 June transition and it’s clearly efforts by insurgent groups to try to exploit sectarian tensions and incite violence,” the Pentagon said.
“These are tragic, unfortunate acts designed to try to propagandise and to test Iraqi security forces but they certainly aren’t going to deter the progress that has been made nor do we anticipate that we will see violence spiralling out of control [as it did in] 2006-2007.”
The number of deaths linked to sectarian violence has declined in that time. Sectarian killings in Baghdad alone totalled 1,600 in December 2006 before coming down to well below 100.
But the US reported an increase in violent civilian deaths across the country in April, even ahead of the transition to Iraqi forces, while adding that “these attacks have not rekindled a cycle of ethno-sectarian violence”.
There have also been tensions between Iraqi and US military forces since the US pull-out, which Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, billed as a “great victory” for Iraqis.
Major General Qassim Atta, a spokesman for the Baghdad operations centre, played down the significance of yesterday’s attacks.
“The satellite television networks are exaggerating this matter in an attempt to affect the political process,” he told the government-run Iraqia channel. “The situation remains under control, and the war against terrorism continues.”
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