London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The latest wave of bombings to strike Iraq hit Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 66 people and wounding many more, according to press reports verified by medical sources.
Like other attacks in recent weeks, car bombs targeted Shi’ite districts in the capital, including the open-air market in the Al-Maalif district and the suburb of Sadr City, as well as the commercial district around Sadoun Street in central Baghdad. Police said that 11 bombs in total hit the city over the course of the day.
Although no group has as yet claimed responsibility, the placement of the bombs—in public spaces in Shi’ite districts—indicates the involvement of radical Sunni militants, possibly linked to the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda, which has made numerous attempts to destabilize the Shi’ite-led government of prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki and re-ignite the widespread sectarian warfare of 2006-7.
The bombings also come during a period of widespread and intense sectarian tensions in Iraq, with thousands of Iraqi Sunnis protesting against what they say is the neglect and persecution of their community by the central government.
A raid by the security forces on a protest camp in northern Iraq on April 23 killed dozens, and raised tensions further.
So far, terrorist attacks have are estimated to have killed more than 450 Iraqis this month, with more than 300 dead in the past two weeks alone, compared with around 400 killed in April, according to some estimates.
The Iraqi government has responded to the violence by promising to undertake reforms of the security policy. The Iraqi military also launched an offensive in Anbar province this weekend, deploying 20,000 troops with helicopter support.