Fears grow as efforts fail in Iraq to stem violence
Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad. Cam bomb technique is widely used by militants to attack targets. More than 600 people have been killed in May, with attacks escalating in the last two weeks. AP PhotoIraq is experiencing its most relentless round of bloodshed since the 2011 U.S. military withdrawal, deepening fears that the country is heading back toward the widespread sectarian fighting that pushed it to the brink of civil war in the years after the invasion.
More than 600 people have been killed in May, with attacks escalating in the last two weeks. The month before was Iraq’s deadliest since June 2008, according to a U.N. tally that put April’s death toll at more than 700.
The U.N. has called for Iraq’s leaders to urgently hold talks to resolve wide-ranging political disputes that have been linked to the surge in unrest, warning that the country was “ready to explode” into violence. “I am seriously concerned,” U.N. envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler said. “This can get worse, and that’s why I strongly advocate that this bloodletting is stopped and the situation does not deteriorate.”
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari echoed those remarks, telling reporters at a news conference in Baghdad: “If there is no political agreement, then it will affect security, and there won’t be a stable security situation. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, visited security checkpoints around Baghdad this week, underscoring the government’s efforts to show it is acting to curtail the bloodshed.
Last week, the prime minister ordered a shakeup of senior security officers but this did not stem the violence. On May 30, six car bombs and two other explosions in Baghdad killed 33 people and wounded at least 79, security and medical officials said.
The rise in violence follows months of protests against the Shiite-led government by Sunnis, many of whom feel they’ve unfairly treated since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Tensions escalated sharply last month after a deadly crackdown by security forces on a Sunni protest camp.
Ban on cars used in bombings
Sunni militants, including al-Qaeda, have long targeted Iraq’s Shiite majority and government security forces. But Sunni mosques and other targets have also been struck over the past several weeks, raising the possibility that Shiite militias are also growing more active.
Authorities also announced plans to impose a sweeping ban on many cars across the Iraqi capital, starting May 31, in an apparent effort to thwart car bombings. The vehicle ban applies to cars bearing temporary black license plates. Those plates are common in post-war Iraq, where for years it was difficult to obtain new ones. They are typically on older-model vehicles and authorities say they are frequently used in car bombings.
The tolls are still markedly lower than the worst of Iraq’s sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007, when death tolls could run to well over 1,000 people a month, but they represent a substantial increase on previous months.