Daylong wave of violence in Iraq kills 89
Insurgents show strength with 42 attacks; US troop plan could be factor
BAGHDAD - Insurgents across Iraq launched their most significant and wide-ranging attacks in months yesterday, killing 89 people and wounding at least 315 in the most violent day in Iraq this year.
In all, there were 42 attacks, nearing the level of violence at the height of the sectarian conflict here in 2006 and 2007.
The carnage sent a disheartening message to the Iraqi and American governments: After hundreds of billions of dollars spent since the US-led invasion in 2003, and tens of thousands of lives lost, insurgents remain a potent and perhaps resurgent threat.
Yesterday’s apparently coordinated strikes against civilians and security forces came in many forms: suicide attacks, car bombs, homemade bombs, and gunmen.
The widespread and lethal nature of the attacks - compared with an average of 14 a day this year - frightened many Iraqis, because it suggested that radical Sunni insurgents, led by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, had regained the capacity for the kind of violence that plagued Iraq when sectarian conflict was raging in 2006 and 2007.
But it also demonstrated the multiple and simultaneous threats gripping the nation at this pivotal time, with Shi’ite militants being linked to the killing of American troops, and threatening more violence if the troops remain, and Iraqi forces clearly unable to preserve the peace.
“Our forces are supposed to have the intelligence capabilities to prevent these types of breaches,’’ said Shawn Mohammed Taha, a Kurdish member of Parliament who serves on its security committee. “The fact is, the insurgents have acted like our security forces don’t even exist.’’
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks. But in a voice recording posted on a website for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia last week, a spokesman for the terrorist group said that it was preparing a wide-scale strike.
“I promise you that we are on the right path,’’ said the spokesman, Abi Muhhamed al-Adnani. “Thank God that we are doing very well here.’’
“Do not worry, the days of Zarqawi are going to return soon,’’ he said, referring to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia who was killed by American forces in 2006.
The attacks came just two weeks after the Iraqi government agreed to formally negotiate with the United States about possibly leaving some troops in Iraq after the end of the year. It was Iraq’s deadliest day since July 5, when nearly three dozen people were killed in Taji.
“The insurgents are able to attack anywhere and everywhere, and no one can really stop them,’’ Taha said, adding that the United States has achieved little in trying to improve Iraq’s own intelligence operation.
Still, one political analyst said he saw the attacks as a calculated bid to frighten the Iraqis into asking the American forces to stay behind, because if they completely withdraw, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia will have lost its rationale for existing.
“If the Americans leave, Al Qaeda will no longer have an excuse to operate throughout the country,’’ said Hamid Fhadil, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. “Al Qaeda wants Americans to stay here so they will have Iraq as a battlefield to fight the Americans.’’
Fhadil said that one of the biggest problems with the Iraqi security forces is that they are more loyal to armed groups like Al Qaeda and Shi’ite militias than to the Iraqi government. “This army is not able to take control by itself,’’ he said.
The attacks began around 3:30 a.m. in the city of Ramadi, when two improvised bombs exploded near a police patrol, killing three officers and wounding two others. A half-hour later in the city of Baqubah, gunmen attacked a checkpoint, killing one police officer.
About 5:45 a.m., two suicide bombers attacked an Iraqi counterterrorism unit in the city of Tikrit, killing three officers. Fifteen minutes later, gunmen with silencer weapons attacked a group of Iraqi Army officers in Baqubah, killing five.
At 7:45 a.m., the day’s most lethal attack occurred when two car bombs exploded in a market in the southern city of Kut, killing 35 people and wounding 71 others.
An hour and a half after that attack, two suicide car bombers struck a police checkpoint in the city of Taji, just north of Baghdad, killing one person and wounding nine, including seven officers.
Saad Ahmed, 38, a police officer who was wounded in Taji, said he opened fire on a suicide bomber who was driving toward him. The car struck Ahmed and knocked him to the ground. He said he stood up and fired again. Seconds later, the attacker detonated the car bomb.
“I looked at my body, and I was drowning in blood,’’ he said at Kadhimiya Hospital in Baghdad, where he was being treated for wounds to his legs, arm, and neck. “I just thought about my friends and if they were OK, because it was 9:15 in the morning, and there was a change in shifts.’’
He added: “It is Ramadan this month, and we should pray that we won’t kill each other. What crime did we commit? We were just trying to protect our country.’’
Other attacks were reported in the northern city of Kirkuk, the Mansour district of Baghdad, and Najaf in the south. Bombs strapped to light poles in the northern city of Mosul exploded, killing one person. A roadside bombing near a fuel truck in Balad, north of Baghdad, wounded 16.
Around 8 p.m., gunmen dressed in military uniforms stormed into a mosque in the city of Yusufiya, just south of Baghdad. The gunmen read off the names of seven people who had been loyal to the United States and joined the Awakening movement, took them outside the mosque, and executed them.
After the execution, the gunmen told the people gathered in the mosque that they were from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and then left.