Iraq blasts kill 48 as security is questioned
A DOUBLE truck bombing tore through the village of a small Shiite ethnic minority near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday, while nine blasts wracked Baghdad in a wave of violence that killed at least 48 people and wounded more than 250, Iraqi officials said.
The attacks provided a grim example of US military warnings that insurgents are targeting Shiites in an effort to re-ignite the kind of sectarian violence that nearly tore the country apart in 2006 and 2007.
The US military said that, despite the rise in attacks, the Shiites are showing restraint and not retaliating as they did more than two years ago when a similar series of attacks and bombings provoked a backlash that degenerated into a sectarian slaughter claiming tens of thousands of lives.
The deadliest blast yesterday was a double truck bombing in Khazna village, just east of Mosul, home of the Shabak, a small Shiite ethnic group in the north. The Shabak, who have their own distinct language and belief system, are part of the mosaic of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq's north that include Yazidis, Assyrian Christians, Turkomen Shiites and Kurds – all of whom have been targeted in the past by Sunni Arab insurgents.
The two explosives-laden trucks went off nearly simultaneously and less than 500 yards apart, killing at least 28 people and wounding 138, police said.
The US military confirmed at least 25 were killed.
No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni insurgents who remain active in Mosul and surrounding areas.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene of rescuers searching through the rubble of at least 15 houses that were destroyed. Many of the dead and wounded were sleeping on their roofs because of the summer heat.
The explosions left a seven-foot crater and reduced the houses to piles of bricks, twisted metal and smoking debris.
"If we had slept inside, we would have been killed," said Mahmoud Hussein, 28, who was sleeping on his roof some 150 yards away at the time.
Qusay Abbas, who represents the Shabak minority as a member of the Ninevah provincial council, blamed security forces for failing to protect the area on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, which the US has called the last stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
A similar attack by a suicide truck bomber against a small Turkomen Shiite village on Friday flattened a mosque and killed 44.
A string of nine bombs also went off across Baghdad despite the security gains there that have prompted the Iraqi government to order the removal of nearly all the blast walls in the city over the next 40 days.
The first bomb was hidden in a pile of rubbish that exploded about 5:50am near a group of labourers drinking tea in the religiously mixed neighbourhood of Amil, killing at least seven and wounding 46, officials said.
About ten minutes later, a car bomb targeted construction workers in western Baghdad, killing another ten people and wounding 35, according to police. A few hours afterwards, a roadside bomb exploded in front of a mosque in the primarily Sunni neighbourhood of Sadiyah in southwest Baghdad, killing two and wounding 14 others, a police official said.
A minibus exploded in the Shiite Shula neighbourhood in north-west Baghdad, killing one and wounding three more, said police. Five other bombs went off in various spots around the city throughout the day, wounding a total of 11 other people.
The attacks have raised concerns about the ability of Iraqi security forces to contain violence as US troops wind down as part of plans to withdraw completely by the end of 2011.
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