At least seven bombs ripped through apartment buildings across Baghdad yesterday and another struck a market, killing 49 people and wounding more than 160. The explosions were the latest in a five-day spree of attacks in and around the capital that have killed at least 119 people.
The violence, which has largely targeted families and homes, is reminiscent of the sectarian bloodshed that tore Iraq apart from 2005 to 2007 and prompted the United States to send tens of thousands more troops to the front lines. But even since that time, sectarian violence and attacks on civilians have flared in cycles, especially surrounding important events such as the recent election.
Iraqi and US officials both blamed the latest spike in attacks on al-Qa’ida insurgents seizing on gaping security lapses created by the political deadlock that has gripped the country since its March 7 parliamentary election failed to produce a clear winner.
“This is blamed on the power vacuum of course, and on how democracy is being raped in Iraq,” former prime minister Ayad Allawi said in an interview. His political coalition, Iraqiya, came out ahead in last month’s vote, narrowly edging Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc by just two seats.
“Because people are sensing there are powers who want to obstruct the path of democracy, terrorists and al-Qa’ida are on the go,” Mr Allawi said. “I think their operations will increase in Iraq.”
He also raised the prospect that the country’s political impasse could last for months as both sides try to cobble together the majority needed to govern.
“It could either be formed in two months or it could last four or five months,” he said. Al-Maliki adviser Sadiq al-Rikabi challenged Mr Allawi’s suggestion that Iraqi security forces had let down their guard since the elections.
“It is true that terrorism and attacks are attributed to the political situation the country is experiencing, and we have faced terrorism before elections as well,” Mr al-Rikabi said. “Some parts are using terrorism events for political goals.”
Maj Gen Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman for Baghdad’s operations command centre, said the attackers detonated homemade bombs and, in one case, a car packed with explosives. He said there were at least seven blasts. The US military in Baghdad, however, said there were eight.
Mr Al-Moussawi said Iraq is in a “state of war” with the terrorists. Police and medical officials said the death toll from yesterday’s explosions was at least 49, and that women and children were among the dead.