Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Explosions tear through Iraq cities

Violence has spiked in Iraq since the start of the holy month of Ramadan

Dozens of people have been killed in a wave of explosions which tore through overwhelmingly Shiite cities south of Baghdad shortly before Muslims broke their Ramadan fasts.

At least 28 were confirmed dead in the latest surge of violence that is raising fears Iraq is sliding back toward full-scale sectarian fighting.

The coordinated attacks followed shootings and bombings in the north earlier in the day that killed six others.

Insurgents have been pounding Iraq with bombings and other attacks for months in the country's worst eruption of violence in half a decade. The pace of the killing has picked up since the Muslim holy month Ramadan began on Wednesday, with daily mass-casualty attacks marring what is meant to be a month of charity and peaceful reflection.

Violence in Iraq has risen to its deadliest level since 2008, with more than 2,700 people killed since the start of April. The spike in bloodshed is fuelling fears that Iraq is again heading toward the widespread sectarian killing that peaked in 2006 and 2007, when the country teetered on the brink of civil war.

Insurgents often increased attacks during Ramadan in the years following the 2003 US-led invasion. Pious Muslims go without food, drink and smoking in the daytime during the holy month, when feelings of spiritual devotion are high.

Sunday's explosions struck shortly before the evening iftar meal that ends the day-long fast during Ramadan.

At least eight people were killed and 15 were wounded in the southern port city of Basra when a car bomb and then a follow-up blast went off near an office of a Shiite political party, according to two police officers. Another car bomb exploded among shops and take-away restaurants in central Kut, 100 miles south-east of Baghdad. The provincial deputy governor, Haidar Mohammed Jassim, said five people were killed and 35 wounded.

Police reported additional car bomb explosions that left four dead in a commercial street in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, five near an outdoor market in Nasiriyah and six near a Shiite mosque in Musayyib, and more than 60 wounded in total.

Earlier in the day, police said gunmen killed two soldiers at their security checkpoint in the restive city of Mosul, 225 miles north-west of Baghdad. Hours later, a roadside bomb killed a municipal council member and his son in a town near Mosul. Gunmen in another area just south of Mosul also sprayed a security checkpoint with bullets, killing two policemen.

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