London, Asharq Al-Awsat—At least 20 people were killed and over 100 wounded on Monday, April 15 in a series of car bombings targeting mainly Shi’ite areas across Iraq.
With the provincial elections due to take place on April 20, there is great concern that such violent attacks could influence the outcome of the elections. The elections are being closely watched as they are considered a test of political stability after the end of US involvement the country. Fear of further attacks might prevent citizens from visiting polling centers for security reasons, thereby restricting them from voting.
The explosions took place in Baghdad, Baquba, Kirkuk, Hilla, amongst other places. The deadliest attack took place in Tuz Khurmato, north of Baghdad, with four consecutive bombs targeting police patrols. Five people were killed and over 60 wounded.
In Tarmiyah, also north of Baghdad, gunmen with silenced pistols killed a police officer driving in his car.
Two of the attacks took place at a checkpoint near Baghdad’s International Airport, an area usually regarded as safe due to heavy airport security and its status as a protected international zone. It is also home to several international embassies.
Other attacks targeted mostly checkpoints and political offices. The three bombings took place in Kirkuk’s city center, targeting Arab, Kurdish and Turkomen areas respectively.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda have consistently attempted to undermine the Iraqi government since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Most recently, Al-Qaeda admitted to conducting bombings on the morning of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion, Tuesday, March 19, 2013.
The Islamic State of Iraq, an organization of Iraqi insurgent groups, claims to have joined forces with the Al-Nusra Front, a rebel group in Syria. The two groups share a common view that the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad are oppressors of the Sunnis.
These bomb attacks take place amidst grave tension between Iraq’s Sunni and Shi’ite communities due to claims from the Sunnis that the Shi’ite-led government is sidelining them and disregarding their demands.