Dozens Killed in Bombings Across Iraq

What may be reprisal attacks for a mosque bombing has proven to be the latest setback for Iraq's fragile political process.

by Liz Fields
Aug 23 2014, 2:45pm

Image via Reuters

At least 30 people were killed in a spate of bombings in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and northern city of Kirkuk on Saturday in apparent revenge attacks for a deadly assault conducted on a Sunni Muslim mosque in Diyala province.

In Kirkuk, 19 people were left dead and 112 wounded after three bombs exploded in a packed commercial district, according to police and witnesses.

There was "an explosion between the cars, and then we started carrying out the dead bodies from there while people were burning inside the shops and cars," On unnamed witness told the Associated Press at the scene.

Earlier in Baghdad, 11 were killed and 24 wounded after a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into an intelligence headquarters, according to police and witnesses. Six civilians and five security officers were among those killed in the early afternoon attack in Karrada district.

The incidents came the day after a deadly assault conducted on a Sunni Muslim mosque in Diyala province, in which 64 people were killed after a suicide bomber and gunmen stormed the building on Friday.

There are conflicting accounts of the mosque attack from both Sunni lawmakers, who claim Iranian-trained Shiite militiamen conducted the attack, and local security officials, who blame insurgents from the Islamic State.

The Iraqi military has been struggling to regain control of vast swaths of land in the country's north and west, which has been overrun by the Islamic State and Sunni militant allies in recent months. In June, the Islamic State took control of Iraq's second largest city of Mosul and declared a borderless caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria.

The escalating crisis has prompted the first round of airstrikes from US forces this month since American troops were pulled out of the country in 2011. The strikes have in turn elicited reprisal acts from the militants, including the gruesome beheading of American journalist James Foley this week.

Read More: World Reacts With Disgust to Video of James Wright Foley Execution

The US military published a video on August 22 described as showing an August 18 airstrike against Islamic State targets at the strategic Mosul Dam complex.

Following Friday's mosque attack, two influential Sunni parliamentarians, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq and Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jibouri, withdrew from talks to form a new government, pending the conclusion of an investigation into the incident.

The leader of a major Shiite militia group in Iraq denied any involvement in the attack on Saturday.

"What happened yesterday is a crime that we cannot turn a blind eye to," Qais al-Khazali of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia told the Associated Press. "It is something we do not accept and we categorically condemn."

In a press conference on Saturday, Al-Jabouri did not hint at who perpetrated the mosque attack, instead denouncing both the Islamic State and Shi'ite militias.

"We will not allow them to exploit disturbed security in the country to undermine the political process. We believe the political process should move on," he said of the attackers, according to Reuters.

Saturday's suicide bombings have proven to be the latest obstacle for Iraq's newly-elected Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as he attempts to form a power-sharing government to soothe sectarian tensions that have reached a boiling point, and battle the imminent threat of the Islamic State insurgency.

The UN has condemned the attacks, expressing concerns the acts and any retaliation would damage the fragile political process in Iraq, while the European Union has urged Iraqi leaders to unite in their stand against the "heinous crime."

The Islamic State: watch the full-length VICE News documentary here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields