‘Al-Qaida’ blasts leave dozens dead in Iraq

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A rapid series of attacks spread over a wide area of Iraq killed at least 55 people yesterday, targeting mostly security forces in what appeared to be another strike by al-Qaida militants.

The apparently co-ordinated bombings and shootings unfolded over a number of hours in the capital Baghdad – where most of the deaths occurred – and 11 other cities.

They struck government offices, restaurants and one in the town of Musayyib hit close to a primary school. At least 225 people were wounded.

“What is happening today are not simple security violations – it is a huge security failure and disaster,” said Ahmed al-Tamimi, who was working at an Education Ministry office a block away from a restaurant that was bombed in northern Baghdad.

“We want to know: What were the thousands of policemen and soldiers in Baghdad doing today while the terrorists were roaming the city and spreading violence?” he said.

It was the latest in a series of large-scale attacks that insurgents have launched every few weeks since the last US troops left Iraq in mid-December at the end of a nearly nine-year war.

The Interior Ministry blamed al- Qaida insurgents for the violence.

“These attacks are part of frantic attempts by the terrorist groups to show that the security situation in Iraq will not ever be stable,” the ministry said in a statement. “These attacks are part of al-Qaida efforts to deliver a message to its supporters that al-Qaida is still operating inside Iraq, and it has the ability to launch strikes inside the capital or other cities and towns.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but targeting security officials is a hallmark of al-Qaida.

The ongoing nature of the violence and the fact that insurgents are able to launch a variety of attacks over a wide territory in Iraq shows the country is still deeply unstable, despite government assurances it could protect itself when American troops left in December.