Al-Qaida claims Baghdad attacks on Shiites

Followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr crowd a street as they attend open air Friday prayers in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 5, 2010

BAGHDAD—Al-Qaida’s front group in Iraq on Friday claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on Baghdad’s Shiite districts this week that left 91 people dead, and threatened more strikes against the country’s majority sect.

The Islamic State of Iraq—an umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni insurgent factions—said in a statement posted on a militant website that the attacks against Shiite civilians at restaurants and cafes across the capital on Tuesday was just “the first of many bloody days to come.”

It also appeared to link the violence to remarks made by a hard-line Kuwaiti Shiite scholar who called the Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, an “enemy of God” during a recent event in London, saying “the smell of death won’t leave their (Shiite) gathering where they insult the wives of the Prophet.”

Sunnis consider such remarks about the prophet’s wife blasphemous.

The Islamic State of Iraq’s threat of more attacks on Shiites comes days after the group also vowed to launch more strikes on Iraq’s Christians following a bloody siege on Sunday at a Baghdad church that left 58 people dead.

In its claim of responsibility for that attack, the group cited events outside of Iraq, saying the siege was meant to force the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt to release Muslim women that the militant group claims are being held captive.

The group also demanded the release of al-Qaida-linked prisoners held in Iraq.

Sectarian tensions in Iraq remain high despite a drop in violence from its height in 2006 and 2007 when battling Sunni and Shiite militias pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

Meanwhile, a long-awaited parliament session that had been called for Monday is being postponed yet again. The acting parliament speaker, Fouad Massoum told The Associated Press that the session would not be held Monday. He did not elaborate.

Another member of parliament, independent Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman, said the session would be held Thursday to give the political blocs more time to come up with an agreement on who will claim the top jobs in the next government.

Iraq’s parliament has met only once since the March 7 election. No single bloc won an outright majority, leaving the blocs scrambling to cobble together enough political allies to form a coalition government.

A Sunni-backed bloc led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won 91 seats—two more than a coalition led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

But as the political process drags out and violence continues, many Iraqis have become increasingly frustrated with their lawmakers’ inability to come to an agreement on the next government.

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