Bombs targeting Sunnis kill at least 76 in Iraq

May 17, 2013

Bombs struck Sunni districts in Baghdad and surrounding areas Friday, killing at least 76 people in the deadliest day in Iraq in more than eight months, officials said, as a spike in violence has created fears that the country could be on the path to a new round of sectarian bloodshed.

The attacks in Baghdad and surrounding areas pushed the three-day Iraqi death toll to 130. The dead included Shiites killed at bus stops and outdoor markets in scenes reminiscent of the retaliatory attacks between the Islamic sects that pushed Iraq close to civil war in 2006-2007.

Tensions have intensified since Sunnis began protesting what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government, including random detentions and neglect. The protests, which began in December, have been largely peaceful, but the number of attacks rose sharply after a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in the north on April 23.

Majority Shiites control the levers of power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Wishing to rebuild the nation rather than revert to open warfare, they have largely restrained their militias over the past five years or so as Sunni extremist groups such as al-
Qaeda have targeted them with occasional large-scale attacks. An increase in attacks on Sunni mosques has fed concerns about a return to retaliatory warfare.

The deadliest blast on Friday struck worshipers as they were leaving the main Sunni mosque in Baqubah, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Another explosion occurred shortly afterward as people gathered to help the wounded, leaving at least 41 dead and 56 wounded, according to police and hospital officials.

Later Friday, a roadside bomb exploded during a Sunni funeral procession in Madain, about 12 miles south of Baghdad, killing eight mourners, police and medical officials said.

Another explosion struck a cafe in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, killing two people, officials said.

In Baghdad, a bomb exploded near a shopping center during evening rush hour in the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Amiriyah, killing 21 people. That was followed by another bomb in a commercial district in Dora, another Sunni neighborhood, which killed four people

It was the deadliest day since Sept. 9 last year, when 92 people were killed, according to an Associated Press tally.

The attacks on Sunnis came after two days of car bombings targeting Shiite areas in Baghdad and other attacks that left 21 people dead on Thursday and 33 on Wednesday.

The violence was the latest to hit a Sunni Muslim house of worship, a trend that has been on the rise. About 30 Sunni mosques have been attacked between mid-April to mid-May, killing more than 100 Sunni worshipers.

— Associated Press

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