BAGHDAD (AP) — Two bombs exploded within minutes of each other outside a Shiite cleric’s home on Wednesday, killing at least eight people as insurgents ramp up attacks in what has been a particularly violent month for Iraq.
The attack brings Iraq’s death toll for June to at least 183, making it the bloodiest month since January, when at least 255 were killed. That surge in violence was widely seen as an attempt by al-Qaeda to undermine the Iraqi government after the last American troops withdrew in mid-December.
The first blast blew out the front wall of the home of a Shiite cleric who was prominent in the southeastern suburb of Wahda, damaging surrounding houses, police and witnesses said.
Neighbor Nasir Luaibi, awakened from the explosion, rushed to the scene with family members to help.
“We tried to search for survivors when the second blast came,” said Luaibi, a 50-year-old day laborer. His cousin died in the second explosion and three of his nephews were wounded.
A police official said the blasts killed eight people, including the cleric’s teenage son and daughter, and wounded 19. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. Hospital officials confirmed the deaths.
Another neighbor, Sattar Hassan, was hit in the leg by shrapnel from the second bomb as he searched the debris of the house.
“I fell down and screamed for help,” he said from Zafaraniyah hospital where many of the wounded were taken. He said he did not know why his neighbors’ house was targeted. “They are nice people who have no quarrel with anybody.”
Shiite Muslims in particular have been targeted by recent attacks in Iraq, which authorities have blamed on al-Qaeda-linked Sunni militants.
Six months after the last American troops left the country, the violence has set back government efforts to provide security and basic services like electricity, despite years of assistance from the U.S., billions of dollars in foreign aid and the country’s oil wealth.
While wholesale violence has dropped dramatically since the peak of sectarian fighting in 2006-2008, analysts say the militants’ recent campaign shows they have been emboldened by government divisions, weak Iraqi security and the absence of international forces.