Iraqi security forces killed in ‘al-Qaida rallying call’ blasts

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CO-ORDINATED bomb strikes targeting Iraqi security forces killed at least 26 people yesterday in an attack one official described as a rallying call by al-Qaida.

The blasts which shattered Shiite neighbourhoods brought September’s death toll from sectarian violence to nearly 200 people — a grim, above-average monthly total for the period since US troops left last year. The steady pace of attacks has worked to undermine confidence in the government.

“The people are fed up with the killings in Iraqi cities,” said Ammar Abbas, 45, a Shiite and government employee who lives in a Baghdad neighbourhood near one of the bombings. “The government officials should feel shame for letting their people die at the hands of terrorists.”

Police said the wave of explosions stretched from the restive but oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the north to the southern Shiite town of Kut, wounding at least 94 people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but bombings are a hallmark of al-Qaida in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency that has been struggling for years to goad Shiite militias back toward civil war.

A key Shiite lawmaker said the bombings probably sought to galvanize al-Qaida in the wake of a prison break last Friday in Saddam Hussein’s northern hometown of Tikrit. Scores of inmates escaped – including as many as 47 convicted al-Qaida militants – in a massive security lapse that the government acknowledged had help from inside.

“Al-Qaida leaders have no intention of leaving this country or letting Iraqis live in peace,” said Hakim al-Zamili, a Shiite member of parliament’s security committee. “The jailbreak in Tikrit has boosted al-Qaida’s morale in Iraq and thus we should expect more attacks in the near future.”

“The situation in Iraq is still unstable,” Mr al-Zamili added. “And repetition of such attacks shows that our security forces are still unqualified to deal with the terrorists.”

Yesterday’s deadliest attack struck the town of Taji, a former al-Qaida stronghold just north of Baghdad. Police said three explosive-rigged cars in a Shiite neighbourhood went off within minutes of each other, killing eight and wounding 28 in back-to-back blasts that began around 7:15 a.m.

Shortly after the Taji attacks, police said a suicide bomber set off his explosives-packed car in the Shiite neighbourhood of Shula in northwest Baghdad. One person was killed and seven wounded.

“So many people were hurt. A leg of a person was amputated,” said Shula resident Naeem Frieh. “What have those innocent people done to deserve this?”

In Baghdad’s bustling Karradah neighbourhood, a parked car laden with explosives went off next to a police patrol, killing a police officer and a civilian, other officials said. Eight other people were injured. The blast was followed minutes later by another parked car bomb as emergency workers and others gathered, killing three civilians and injuring 12 others.

Elsewhere in the country, another suicide bomber drove a minibus into a security checkpoint in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. Three police officers were killed and five wounded.

And in Iraq’s north, another policeman was killed when security forces were trying to defuse a car bomb parked on the main highway between the cities of Kirkuk and Tuz Khormato.

At mid-morning another parked car bomb went off next to a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims in the town of Madain, killing three Iraqis and injuring 11 others including seven Iranians.

In the town of Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad, a parked car bomb targeted a passing police patrol, killing two policemen and injuring seven others. And in the nearby town of Khan Bani Saad, another parked car bomb exploded near a market and killed one civilian and injured nine others.

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