Baghdad: Iraqi officials on Friday said that a blistering string of attacks across the country the previous day killed at least 93 people and wounded many more, as the extent of the violence grew clearer and mourners began to bury their dead.
It was Iraq`s second deadliest day since US troops left in December, surpassed only by a coordinated wave of killings last month. Yesterday`s attacks seemed meant to strike fear in Iraqis and undermine faith in the Shi’ite-led government`s security measures, ahead of what was supposed to be a festive holiday weekend.
There was no claim of responsibility for yesterday`s strikes. Coordinated bombings and related attacks are a favourite tactic of the al Qaeda offshoot, known as the Islamic State of Iraq.
Since the beginning of August, more than 190 people have been killed in violence across Iraq, showing that insurgents led by al Qaeda`s Iraqi franchise remain a lethal force eight months after the last US troops left the country.
"Al Qaeda wants to send a clear message to the Iraqi people that the terrorists are still strong and able to harm them despite the huge amount of funds spent on the Iraqi security forces," said Shi’ite lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili, a member of the Parliament`s security and defence committee.
"The terrorists want to tell the Iraqi people that the security forces are still incapable of protecting them."
Officials had feared an upsurge in violence coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this weekend. Steps have been taken to ramp up security measures to protect the crowds who gather in public places such as mosques, parks and restaurants to celebrate.
Yesterday`s attacks began early in the north of Iraq and ended with deadly bomb explosions near busy markets, restaurants and ice cream parlours before midnight. Car bombs were to blame for many of the deaths, though attackers also deployed smaller explosives and shot some of the victims. A suicide bomber claimed seven lives when he blew himself up inside a tea shop in Tal Afar, some 420 kilometres northwest of the capital.
"I am appalled at the wave of heinous attacks that shook the country throughout the day yesterday," the United Nations envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, said in a statement. "They violate the spirit of peace associated with this holiest of times in the Muslim year."
Among the higher casualty numbers disclosed on Friday were 21 people killed when a car bomb detonated shortly before midnight near an ice cream shop in Baghdad`s predominantly Shi’ite Safariing neighbourhood, according to police and hospital officials.