Iraq: Baghdad blasted by bombs

An Iraqi policeman at the site of a car bomb in central Baghdad yesterday. Picture: AFP/Getty
An Iraqi policeman at the site of a car bomb in central Baghdad yesterday. Picture: AFP/Getty
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Bombs have hit Iraq’s capital Baghdad and a village near the northern town of Baquba, killing at least 75 people, police and hospital sources said, as prime minister Nuri al-Maliki warned that militants were trying to set up an “evil statelet”.

In the most bloody incident yesterday, a bomb blew up in a funeral tent where mourners were marking the death two days ago of a Sunni Muslim pro-government militiaman, police said. It killed 18 people and wounded 16 in Shatub, a village south of Baquba.

In north-western Iraq, assailants detonated roadside bombs near a bridge in Ain al-Jahash, 40 miles south of Mosul, as an army patrol was crossing it. Six soldiers were killed and eight people were wounded, six of them civilians, police said.

Gunmen killed seven truck drivers, kidnapped two and set three trucks ablaze in the mainly Shi’ite district of Maamil in Baghdad’s eastern outskirts, police said.

Two years after US troops left Iraq, violence has climbed back to its highest levels since the Sunni-Shi’ite bloodshed of 2006-7, when tens of thousands of people were killed.

The army is locked in a standoff with Sunni militants who overran Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad, more than two weeks ago in a challenge to Mr Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government.

They are led by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (Isis), which is fighting in western Iraq and Syria to carve out a cross-border Islamist fiefdom.

“The battle will be long and will continue,” Mr Maliki said on state television. “If we keep silent, it means the creation of evil statelets that would wreak havoc with security in the region and the world.”

Mr Maliki has so far ruled out an assault on Fallujah by the troops and tanks surrounding the city of 300,000, but has told local tribesmen to expel Isis, which has exploited anger among minority Sunnis against a government they accuse of ­oppressing them.

Mr Maliki said: “The tribesmen should take a firm stance in order to expel the terrorists from their areas so that peace would prevail there.”

The World Health Organisation said the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah now have acute health needs due to the conflict. The organisation said it has dispatched two tonnes of medicines and supplies.

Al-Qaeda loyalists are pursuing a relentless campaign of attacks, mostly aimed at security forces, Shi’ite civilians and ­Sunnis seen as loyal to the Shi’ite-led government.

The violence has dismayed leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

“This is a disaster,” its president’s chief of staff Fuad Hussein said yesterday. “Now the whole country is being threatened by terrorists, so we need to have a common front.”

At least eight bombs struck the Iraqi capital, mostly in Shi’ite districts, killing 40 people and wounding 88, police and medics said.

A car bomb in Dujail, a Shi’ite town 30 miles north of Baghdad, killed three people and wounded seven.

The bombings followed ­attacks that cost at least 24 lives the day before, as well as co-ordinated assaults by militants on a highway bridge and police station near Fallujah.

A suicide bomber in an ­explosives-laden fuel tanker blew it up under the bridge near the town of Saqlawiya, about six miles north of Fallujah, causing the bridge to collapse and destroying one of two army tanks parked on top, police said.

Gunmen then attacked and destroyed the second tank.

Simultaneously, dozens of militants stormed a police station in Saqlawiya.