A surge of car bombs and suicide bombings devastated Shiite Muslim districts around Baghdad leaving more than 50 dead on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War. This wave of blasts included 17 car bombs, seven roadside bombs and two shootings.
The attacks began with a bomb exploding outside a popular restaurant in the Mashtal neighborhood. Shortly after that, a roadside bomb exploded in the New Baghdad area. An additional three explosions detonated in Sadr City, a Shiite district, killing 10 people. The deadliest attack was a car bombing near the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in eastern Qahira neighborhood leaving seven dead and 21 wounded. Other attacks included a car bomb near a gate to the fortified Green Zone where U.S. and British embassy government offices are located.
People gather at the scene of a car bomb attack close to the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo: AP)
In response to the escalations in violence, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki announced that the provincial elections in the largely Sunni Anbar and Nineveh provinces originally scheduled for April will be delayed. On Wednesday, an al-Qaeda affiliated group in Iraq claimed responsibility for the explosions stating that the attacks were to avenge the executions of convicted Sunni prisoners. An al-Qaeda member posted a statement on a jihadist website late on Tuesday saying the revenge attacks would continue.
This latest violence does not come as a surprise as there has been a surge of violence in Iraq since the withdrawal of the last American forces at the end of 2011. Throughout 2012, rising tensions between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite population resulted in increased violence, and according to the UN mission in Iraq, between mid-November 2012 and January 31, 2013, 741 civilians and 311 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed. There has also been a resurgence of “mass casualty” assaults.
A decade after the Iraq War, a dichotomy between progress and chaos throughout Iraq exists. Individuals living in the Kurdish region and oil rich Shiite provinces in the South are experiencing rising prosperity and increasingly effective local political institutions, while simultaneously those living in the Sunni heart of Iraq are at the epicenter of sectarian violence.