DUBAI (AFP) – Al-Qaeda has claimed it was behind bomb attacks on judges in Iraq, saying they were carried out to avenge death sentences being handed down to Sunnis in Shiite prisons, a US monitoring group said Tuesday.
The August 17 attacks were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi front, in a statement posted on Islamist forums on Monday, the SITE monitoring group said.
It said the statement had warned that “fighters will not remain idle as Sunni Muslims are sentenced to death and killed in Shiite prisons.”
The group claimed that so far it has targeted 12 judges, SITE said.
Iraqi officials had reported two separate bomb attacks on August 17 — one in Baghdad and one on the road linking the central cities of Baquba and Baladruz — in which a total of four judges were wounded.
The officials had said the judge wounded in Baghdad was Chief Judge Kamal Jabir Bandar, head of the Iraqi Appeals Court.
ISI in its statement claimed that Bandar was one of four wounded when his vehicle was struck by a bomb in western Baghdad, SITE said.
ISI had on Friday claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing, also on August 17, on a crowded Iraqi army recruitment centre in Baghdad that killed 59 people and wounded 100.
A surge of violence in the past two months has sparked concern that Iraqi forces are not yet ready to take over sole responsibility for the country’s security, as the US military prepares to declare an end to combat operations next week.
The US army on Tuesday said the number of American troops in Iraq has fallen below 50,000 — less than a third of the peak figure of around 170,000 during “the surge” of 2007, when Iraq was in the midst of a brutal sectarian war in which thousands of people were killed.
According to Iraqi figures, disputed by the US, July was the deadliest month in Iraq since May 2008.