Monday was the deadliest day so far this year for Iraqis, with 42 seemingly coordinated strikes by suicide bombers, car bombs and roaming gunmen killing scores of civilians and police officers across Iraq.
Most of the attacks were targeted at supporters of the government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Islamist, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Victims included security officials, civilians in largely Shiite towns in the south and Sunni Arabs who had joined the government’s side. Sunni Arab militants were suspected of orchestrating the violence.
According to the New York Times:
By sundown, when Iraqis broke their fast in observance of the holy month of Ramadan, the death toll had reached 89, including 3 suicide bombers, and an additional 315 people were wounded. The widespread and lethal nature of the attacks — compared with an average of 14 a day this year — frightened many Iraqis, because it suggested that radical Sunni insurgents, led by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, may have regained the capacity for the kind of violence that plagued Iraq at the height of the sectarian war in 2006 and 2007.
The attacks began around 3:30 a.m., the New York Times reports, with the explosion of two improvised bombs near a police patrol in Ramadi, which killed three officers. It continued throughout the day until 8 p.m., when gunmen held up a mosque in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad. After reading the names of seven people who had left the Sunni insurgency during the U.S. troop surge, the gunmen rounded up the men and executed them outside the mosque.
The day’s worst incident occurred at 7:45 a.m., when two car bombs exploded in a market in Kut, killing 35 and wounding 71.
In addition, gunmen killed five Iraqi Army officers in Baquba, suicide bombers attacked security officials in Tikrit, Taji and Najaf and insurgents detonated bombs in Baquba, Khan Bani Saad and Kirkuk.
U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by December, and the violent day demonstrated that Iraq is still very much threatened by anti-government forces. “This wave of explosions and attacks is evidence that al-Qaeda is still effective,” Lt. Col. Hachem Neama Abbas, an Iraqi army commander in Baghdad, told the Washington Post.
One political analyst told the New York Times that frightening Iraqis into asking the American forces to stay longer may have been the point of the attacks. “If the Americans leave, Al Qaeda will no longer have an excuse to operate throughout the country,” said Hamid Fhadil, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. “Al Qaeda wants Americans to stay here so they will have Iraq as a battlefield to fight the Americans.”