Assassinations and bombings in Iraq kill at least 85

At least 75 people were killed in attacks across Iraq on Monday, including a series of deadly bombings and drive-by shootings in the capital; Iraq's bloodiest day of the year so far.
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

BAGHDAD -- A series of assassinations and bombings across Iraq on Monday killed at least 85 people, an apparent show of force by a weakened insurgency.

The attacks made it the deadliest day in Iraq this year and underscored the fragility of security gains during a period of soaring political tension. Nearly 300 people were reportedly wounded.

Predominantly Shiite southern provinces that have been among the safest in Iraq in recent years were the hardest hit.

No group asserted responsibility, but Iraqi officials blamed the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. The group's two top leaders were killed in a U.S. airstrike last month, and several of their deputies have been slain or detained in recent weeks.

Assassinations targeting soldiers and police officers at checkpoints in Baghdad and the bombings in the south suggest that Sunni insurgents are pursuing a two-pronged strategy, Iraqi officials said.

By killing security personnel, insurgents appear to be seeking to discredit the Shiite-led government's security forces at a time when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is fighting to extend his mandate for another four years.

Attacking Shiite Muslim civilians proved an effective way of stoking sectarian hatred and prompting retaliatory attacks between Shiites and Sunnis in 2006 and 2007.

"They want to inflame sectarian violence again," said Shiite politician Ali al-Allaq, who is close to the prime minister. He predicted the strategy would fail because, he said, Iraqis will no longer be drawn into the type of tit-for-tat cycle of violence that drove the country to a civil war. "These tactics are now useless in Iraq. Maybe there will be sectarian tension, but not sectarian war," Allaq said.

Monday's deadliest attack was carried out at a textile plant near Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. Two car bombs detonated in the plant's parking lot during a shift change in late morning, Iraqi police officials said. As employees and rescue workers rushed to aid the wounded, a suicide bomber detonated a third round of explosives. At least 36 people were killed and nearly 140 were wounded in the Hilla blasts. Two people were killed elsewhere in Babil province in roadside bombings, police officials said.

In the city of Kut, also in a predominantly Shiite province south of Baghdad, a crowd gathered outside a restaurant in the afternoon after a blast from what officials described as a sound bomb. The explosion was followed by a more-powerful car bomb that left at least 15 people dead.

In Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, two car bombs detonated at markets shortly after sunset, killing at least 13 people and wounding 20, according to Iraqi police. Iraqi television news stations reported a higher death toll, saying 27 people died in the blasts. Authorities in the southern port city imposed a vehicle ban and a curfew in certain areas.

The attacks began before dawn in Baghdad, where gunmen in speeding cars opened fire on 14 checkpoints, killing at least six soldiers and police officers, Iraqi officials said. Eleven roadside bombs and three car bombs were also reported in the capital, killing at least seven people. The attacks in the capital wounded 64 people, including at least 34 security officials.

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