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Toll for Devastating Iraq Attacks Rises to 119 - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iraqis react to an explosion in Hillah Iraq in this image taken from TV. (AP)

Iraqis react to an explosion in Hillah Iraq in this image taken from TV. (AP)

BAGHDAD, (AP) – The death toll for a devastating day of attacks across Iraq rose to 119 on Tuesday as the worst hit cities of Basra and Hilla south of Baghdad reported new deaths from bombings the previous day, the country’s deadliest so far this year.

The medical official at the Basra morgue said 30 people died, nearly twice as many as were originally reported, in the string of three bombings that ripped through the city on Monday, part of a series of attacks that convulsed the country.

In Hillah, which saw Monday’s worst attack, police spokesman Maj. Muthana Khalid said five more people had died, raising the toll there to 50 dead. A pair of car bombs near a factory lured rescuers and onlookers to the scene where a suicide bomber detonated himself in their midst.

The relentless cascade of bombings and shootings — hitting at least 10 cities and towns as the day unfolded — raised questions about whether Iraqi security forces can protect the country as the U.S. prepares to withdraw half of its remaining 92,000 troops in Iraq over the next four months.

Officials were quick to blame insurgents linked to al-Qaida in Iraq for the shootings in the capital, saying the militants were redoubling efforts to destabilize the country at a time of political uncertainty over who will control the next government.

The bombings came as Iraq’s political factions were still bogged down in negotiations to form a new government more than two months after inconclusive parliamentary elections were held.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite bloc has tried to squeeze out election front-runner Iyad Allawi — a secular Shiite heavily backed by Sunni Arabs — by forging an alliance last week with another religious Shiite coalition that would dominate any new government.

Sunni anger at Shiite domination of successive governments since Saddam Hussein’s 2003 ouster was a key reason behind the insurgency that sparked sectarian warfare in 2006 and 2007. If Allawi is perceived as not getting his fair share of power, that could outrage the Sunnis who supported him and lead some to restore their backing to the insurgency.

Aside from Hillah, the worst of Monday’s violence hit Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, where three bombs exploded in the city, including one that targeted a marketplace. Basra has been relatively quiet since Shiite militias were routed in 2008 by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces.

An Iraqi Army soldier stands guard at the site of a bombing in the southern Shiite port city of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)

An Iraqi Army soldier stands guard at the site of a bombing in the southern Shiite port city of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)

Iraqi soldiers gather at the site of a bus explosion in Iskandiriyah, 50kms south of Baghdad. (AFP)

Iraqi soldiers gather at the site of a bus explosion in Iskandiriyah, 50kms south of Baghdad. (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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