Turkey warns of Iraq flare-up as dozens killed
BAGHDAD / ANKARA
Iraqi civilians inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in the Kamaliyah neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad, as escalating violence kills dozens in the country amid warnings from neighboring Turkey. AP PhotoA string of car bombs and shootings killed at least 99 people in mostly Shiite areas of Iraq on May 20, escalating fears of a return to widespread sectarian war in the country just after Ankara expressed its concerns about the growing violence.
The attacks, some of which hit market places and crowded bus stops during the morning rush hour, pushed the death toll in Iraq since May 15 to more than 200. The bloodshed over the past week has been reminiscent of the retaliatory attacks between Sunnis and Shiites that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007.
Bombings at two Shiite mosques south of Baghdad also killed 13 people on late Monday, police and a doctor said, the latest in a string of attacks targeting both Sunni and Shiite places of worship in Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that he would overhaul the country’s security strategy and personnel.
“Turkey, which attaches great importance to the unity and integrity of its friendly neighbor Iraq, is concerned about the recent increase in the terrorist attacks in Iraq,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement released May 19.
The worst of yesterday’s violence took place in Baghdad, where 10 car bombs ripped through open-air markets and other areas of Shiite neighborhoods, killing at least 48 people and wounding nearly 150, police officials said. Predominantly Shiite Basra in southern Iraq was also hit yesterday, with three car bombs there.
One of the bombs in Basra was detonated outside a restaurant, while another exploded at the city’s main bus station, killing at least 13 and wounding 40.
In the town of Balad, about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded next to a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing 13 Iranians and one Iraqi. The violence also struck Sunni areas, hitting the city of Samarra north of Baghdad and the western province of Anbar, a Sunni stronghold. A parked car bomb in Samarra went off near a gathering of pro-government Sunni militia who were waiting outside a military base to receive salaries, killing three and wounding 13, while in Anbar gunmen ambushed two police patrols near the town of Haditha, killing eight policemen. The attacks came after Turkey strongly condemned the bombings last week in the country. “We strongly condemn the bomb attacks which occurred in various regions of Iraq, particularly in the capital Baghdad, Baqubah and Fallujah on May 17 and in which more than 60 people lost their lives and a great number of people were injured according to initial reports,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said.
“On this sad occasion, we strongly confirm once again that Turkey will always continue to be in complete solidarity with the brotherly Iraqi people in their fight against terrorism,” it added.
The attacks came as prime minister said that he will overhaul the country’s security strategy. “We are about to make changes in the high and middle positions of those responsible for security, and the security strategy,” al-Maliki said, adding that the issue will be discussed today in the Cabinet meeting.