A wave of car bombings in Iraq has killed dozens. A dramatic surge in sectarian violence has been fueled by events in neighboring countries.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for Monday's blasts, which killed at least 58 and wounded scores more. News agency AFP put the death toll somewhat higher at 67.
Police officers said that more than a dozen bombs in parked cars detonated in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad within one hour. They said the deadliest explosion happened in the eastern Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, where two separate bombs went off, killing at least nine people.
The violence has also hit Shiite regions in the south of the country. Back-to-back explosions in two parked cars in an outdoor market and near a gathering of construction workers killed at least seven people and wounded 35 more in the city of Kut, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Baghdad. And in Basra, 550 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, a car bomb killed four people and wounded five more at a market.
The Associated Press and Agence France Press news agencies both reported that suicide attacks, car bombings and other violence had killed more than 3,000 people since April, including more than 500 since the start of July alone and the NGO Iraq Body Count, which has monitored civilian deaths in the country since 2003, reported that 4,000 people died in the country since the beginning of this year.
The surge in violence began in April, following a crackdown by security forces on a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija.
Protests broke out in Sunni-majority areas at the end of 2012 and are still ongoing. Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority has argued that the Shiite-led government was failing to address its concerns, instead marginalizing and targeting their community with unwarranted arrests and terrorism charges.
Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq have been further inflamed by the civil war in neighboring Syria, where the predominantly Sunni rebel movement is fighting government forces.
Observers fear that Iraq is now slipping back towards all-out sectarian conflict of 2006 and 2007.
There is also friction between Iraq’s Arab and Kurdish population groups. And political squabbling has further paralyzed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.
rg, ccp/pfd (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)