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MIDEAST > Twin car bombs upsurge violence in Iraqi capital

BAGHDAD

At least 19 die at two car bomb attacks in Baghdad. The Iraqi police prevent another attempt by two suicide bombers, who wanted to free jailed al Qaeda members

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Iraqi security forces gather at the site of a car bomb attack in central Baghdad, Iraq. EPA photo

Iraqi security forces gather at the site of a car bomb attack in central Baghdad, Iraq. EPA photo

Twin car bombs hit central Baghdad on July 31, killing at least 19 people, and security forces fought off a separate attack inside a police station by two suicide bombers trying to free al Qaeda prisoners, Reuters reported.

Dark smoke rose above the centre of the capital where the car bombs exploded minutes apart, leaving the dead and wounded lying in the street or slumped inside a damaged minibus, witnesses and police said.

Attempt to take hostages
As security forces began to help the victims, at least two suicide bombers dressed as police officers got into a nearby police station, where al Qaeda members were being held, and tried to free them, two security sources said. It was unclear how many people had been killed or wounded in the assault, but both bombers had been killed, one security official said.

“Their aim was to take hostages in order to release major al-Qaeda prisoners,” one senior security source said. “Most officers went to the floor above them to fight them, which is why they failed.”

The attack coincides with a surge in violence in Iraq and comes as bloodshed in neighboring Syria is escalating. Iraqi officials have warned that some Sunni Muslim insurgents were heading to Syria and al Qaeda’s local Iraqi affiliate has called on its followers to intensify their campaign.

Al Qaeda’s Iraqi wing, Islamic State of Iraq, was badly weakened by the loss of top commanders in the war against U.S. troops, but the insurgents have carried out at least one major assault a month since the U.S. withdrawal in December.

The major assault underscored the seriousness of Iraq’s struggle with insurgents more than seven months after the last U.S. troops left behind a country still grappling with political instability and sectarian tensions.

Meanwhile, July was the deadliest month in Iraq in almost two years, with 325 people killed in attacks, and included the deadliest day here since December 2009, official figures released yesterday showed, according to Agence France-Presse.

The statistics compiled by the health, interior and defense ministries showed that 325 people -241 civilians, 40 police and 44 soldiers - were killed nationwide during July. Another 697 people - 480 civilians, 122 police and 95 soldiers - were wounded. It was the highest monthly toll given by the government since August 2010, when figures showed 426 people killed and 838 wounded in attacks. The previous highest official toll this year was for January, when government figures showed that 151 Iraqis were killed and 321 wounded in attacks.

While violence has decreased from its peak in 2006-2007, attacks are still near-daily occurrences in Iraq, with most of the unrest concentrated in Baghdad and areas north of the capital.

In the deadliest incidents -a string of roadside bombs and a car bomb followed by a suicide attack targeting emergency responders in the town of Taji, just north of Baghdad - at least 42 people were killed and 40 wounded, medical officials said. Two days later, Al-Qaeda’s front group here, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), claimed the attacks, saying they were part of a new campaign in the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

August/02/2012

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