40 killed in Iraq as bomb blasts mirror al-Qaida’s local interests

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At least 41 people were killed in a wave of bombings across Iraq yesterday, including attacks on busy markets and a funeral north of Baghdad, authorities said, as the country remains gripped by violence after al-Qaida-linked militants took control of two cities in western Anbar province.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts. Insurgent groups, mainly al-Qaida’s local branch and other Sunni militants, frequently target civilians in cafes and public areas, as well as Shiites and members of Iraqi security forces in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government and stir sectarian tensions.

The deadliest attack happened during a funeral in the town of Buhriz, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. There, 16 people were killed and 26 wounded inside a mourning tent.

The funeral was for an anti-al- Qaida Sunni militiaman who died of natural causes two days ago. The Sunni militia, known as the Awakening Council, was formed by US forces during the height of the insurgency. They are seen as traitors by al-Qaida’s local branch and other militant groups.

In Baghdad, a series of bombings killed at least 25 people.

The deadliest attack there took place in the northern Shula neighbourhood, where a parked car bomb exploded in an outdoor market, killing five shoppers and wounding 12, a police officer said.

A car bombing in the nearby Shaab area killed four civilians and injured 14, officials said.

Another car bomb in a commercial area in the central Karrada district killed four civilians and wounded 14, police said. A car bomb in another part of Karrada killed two civilians and wounded 10, authorities said.

In a Baghdad suburb, a car bomb killed four civilians and wounded 11 in a market.

In the capital’s eastern Palestine Street, a car bomb killed three civilians and wounded 10, authorities said. Another market bombing killed three civilians and wounded eight in the eastern Maamil area, police said.

The army and allied tribesmen have been fighting al-Qaida’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group around Anbar’s provincial capital, Ramadi, and the nearby city of Fallujah. The militants control the centre of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, a major challenge to the government and its forces two years after the withdrawal of US troops.

Violence has escalated over the past year. Last year, Iraq saw the highest death toll since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to UN figures.