Saturday, April 24, 2010
At least 69 dead after series of attacks on Shiite mosques in Baghdad
The bloodiest day of the year in Iraq left at least 69 people dead in a series of bombings in mainly Shiite areas Friday — concerted attacks seen as demonstrating the resilience of the Sunni-led insurgency after the slaying of two al-Qaida leaders last weekend, AP reports.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the attacks as usual on Al-Qaida and baathists. In a statement Friday night he said the insurgents were trying to fight back after Iraqi security forces killed the two al-Qaida in Iraq leaders on April 18. 'The cowardly terrorist attacks that occurred today were intending to cover the great success achieved by the security forces through the killing of the leaders of wickedness and terrorism, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri,' al-Maliki said. He also called on Iraqis to stand firm against Baathists, former members of the Baath Party that ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Friday's apparently coordinated attacks came in a two-hour span shortly after the Shiites' call to prayer across the capital. The major blasts were in former Shiite militia strongholds, near three Shiite mosques.
In the vast eastern Baghdad slum of Sadr City, hundreds of worshippers knelt on prayer mats in the streets surrounding the offices of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr when the deadliest blasts went off.
Four strategically located car bombs timed to maximize the carnage killed at least 36 people and wounded nearly 200, according to hospital and police officials.
Two of the bombs exploded in the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, killing one person and wounding 12. Two others targeted mosques linked with prominent Shiite political leaders. A car bomb at the Hadi al-Chalabi mosque in the Hurriyah neighborhood killed eight people and wounded 19. The mosque is named after the father of Ahmed Chalabi, who was behind much of the faulty intelligence that resulted in the U.S.-led invasion and had a hand in purges which cost many Sunni government functionaries with tis to the Baath their jobs. A bomb targeting the Muhsin al-Hakim mosque killed 14 people and wounded 36. That mosque is named after the grandfather of Ammar al-Hakim, a leading Shiite political figure whose party has ties to Iran.
In the past, such bombings would be followed by revenge attacks by militias against Sunnis, but the retaliatory violence ebbed after al-Sadr's forces were routed by U.S.-Iraqi offensives in 2008.
Three people died in scattered violence elsewhere in the capital.
Bombs also ripped through the houses of Iraqi policemen in the former insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, killing at least seven people, including a soldier trying to defuse one of the devices, authorities said.
April has been the deadliest month in Iraq so far this year, with more than 263 civilians killed in war-related violence, according to an Associated Press count. Still, violence is dramatically lower than past years.