Suicide bomber kills 34 in Iraq as PM accuses Saudi Arabia and Qatar of fuelling bloodshed
HILLA - Agence France-Presse
A picture taken on March 9 shows burnt out vehicles at the site of a suicide bombing at a checkpoint near Baghdad. AFP photoA suicide bomber killed 34 people, including two state television employees, at a checkpoint near Baghdad March 9, after Iraq's prime minister accused Riyadh and Doha of fuelling bloodshed in the country.
Iraq has been hit by a year-long surge in violence that has reached levels not seen since 2008, driven principally by widespread discontent among its Sunni Arab minority and by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
The suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged minibus during morning rush hour at a checkpoint at the northern entrance to Hilla, the confessionally-mixed but mostly-Shiite capital of Babil province south of Baghdad.
The attack killed 34 people and left 167 others wounded, a police captain and medical sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Among the fatalities were five policemen, two women and five children, according to the sources.
Iraqiya state television said two of its employees, Muthanna Abdulhussein and Khaled Abed Thamer, were among the dead.
In Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, gunmen shot dead at least two soldiers and wounded one at an army checkpoint, while five attacks north of Baghdad killed a police colonel and two policemen and left nearly 40 other people wounded.
Analysts and diplomats have urged Iraq's Shiite-led authorities to reach out to disaffected Sunnis but with elections due next month, political leaders have not wanted to be seen to compromise and have instead pursued a hard line against militants.
Riyadh and Doha 'responsible of security crisis'
In an interview broadcast on March 8, Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of backing militant groups in Iraq and said they have effectively declared war on the country.
The two Sunni Gulf states "are attacking Iraq, through Syria and in a direct way, and they announced war on Iraq, as they announced it on Syria, and unfortunately it is on a sectarian and political basis," the prime minister told France 24 television.
"These two countries are primarily responsible for the sectarian and terrorist and security crisis of Iraq."
The two countries support fighters opposed to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and in recent weeks they have sparred over Doha's backing for the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.
Baghdad has long complained that support for militant groups fighting in Syria's civil war finds its way through to Iraq, with weapons in particular ending up in the hands of jihadists.
In the interview Maliki said Riyadh and Doha provide political, financial and media support to militant groups and accused them of "buying weapons for the benefit of these terrorist organisations."
He also accused Saudi Arabia of supporting global "terrorism." Maliki condemned "the dangerous Saudi stance" of supporting "terrorism in the world -- it supports it in Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and Egypt and Libya, and even in countries outside" the Arab world.
Violence in Iraq has killed more than 150 people so far this month and over 1,850 since the beginning of the year, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.