At Least 72 Iraqis killed in a Series of Horrific Morning Explosions

This morning, a series of 14 bombings tore through Iraq in under two hours, killing at least 72 and wounding nearly 200 people less than a week after the withdrawal of US troops.  The Guardian reports:

In all, 11 neighbourhoods were hit by either car bombs, roadside blasts or sticky bombs attached to cars. At least one of the attacks was a suicide bombing and the blasts went off over several hours.

The worst blast was in the Karrada neighbourhood, where a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle blew himself up outside the office of a government agency fighting corruption. Two police officers at the scene said the bomber was driving an ambulance and told guards that he needed to get to a nearby hospital. After the guards let him through, he drove to the building where he blew himself up, the officers said.

Sirens wailed as ambulances rushed to the scene and a large plume of smoke rose over the area. The blast left a crater about five metres wide in front of the five-storey building, which was singed and blackened.

"I was sleeping in my bed when the explosion happened, said 12-year-old Hussain Abbas, who was standing nearby in his pyjamas. "I jumped from my bed and rushed to my mum's lap. I told her I did not want to go to school today. I'm terrified."

At least 25 people were killed and 62 injured in that attack, officials said.

The devastation experienced this morning is said to be the result of a political crisis, raising fears that new rounds of sectarian violence will plague the country. Reuters explains:

Just days after the U.S. withdrawal, Iraq's fragile power-sharing government is grappling with its worst turmoil since its formation a year ago. Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs share out government posts in a unwieldy system that has been impaired by political infighting since it began.

Since its modern borders were mapped in 1920, Iraq has been a patchwork of sectarian and ethnic regions, from the mainly Shi'ite Muslim south to Sunni strongholds in the west and, more recently, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in the north.

Even before the crisis, Baghdad and Kurdistan were caught up in a growing dispute over control of some of the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. One dispute involves whether U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil can operate in Kurdistan.

Sunni Muslim provinces near Saudi Arabia are also chafing against what they see as an increasingly authoritarian government in Baghdad that is interested only in promoting a Shi'ite Muslim agenda.

This week, Maliki called for the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges he organized assassinations and bombings, and he asked parliament to fire his Sunni deputy Saleh al-Mutlaq after he likened Maliki to Saddam.

Hashemi, who has denied the accusations, has taken refuge in Iraq's Kurdish region where he is unlikely to be handed over to the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.

Maliki Wednesday warned Sunni leaders they would be excluded from power if they walked out of the ruling coalition, even as senior U.S. officials piled pressure on both sides for dialogue to end the crisis.

The moves against the senior Sunni leaders have fanned sectarian worries because Sunnis fear the prime minister wants to consolidate Shi'ite domination over the country.

Iraq's Sunni minority have felt marginalized since the rise of the Shi'ite majority in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. Many Sunnis feel they have been shunted aside in the power-sharing agreement that Washington touts as a young democracy.

After nearly a decade of US occupation, Iraq is left in ruins with a corrupt government and no social infrastructure to speak of. The war maybe over for America, but the people of Iraq will feel the consequences for years to come. 

AlterNet / By Rania Khalek

Posted at December 22, 2011, 8:47am

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