More than 20 people killed in terrorist attacks in Iraq
BAGHDAD - Terrorist attacks across Iraq killed more than 20 people yesterday, including in Anbar Province, where an increase in violence has heightened sectarian tensions.
In Anbar, a bomb exploded inside a bus carrying Iraqi soldiers to a restaurant at Camp Habbaniya, a military base east of Ramadi, police officials said. Six soldiers were killed, and 10 were injured, the Anbar military operations command said in a statement.
The attack came a day after leaders in Anbar, the population of which is mainly Sunni, lashed out at the Shi’ite-led national government over the killing of 22 Shi’ite pilgrims by gunmen in the province Monday. The leaders in Anbar said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government was not doing enough to protect the province.
In Babil Province, south of Baghdad, a parked car packed with explosives was detonated in front of a busy restaurant on the highway connecting the capital and Basra. The restaurant was crowded with travelers who had stopped for breakfast. The police said the blast had killed 13 people and wounded 46 more, including women and children.
Later, the bodies of three Shi’ite men believed to have been laborers were found along a highway in Babil Province. The men’s hands had been tied, and they had been shot multiple times, the police said.
In Baghdad, gunmen killed two police officers at a security checkpoint and wounded a third.
Violence in Anbar Province has worsened in recent weeks as the United States has begun to withdraw its 46,000 remaining troops from Iraq.
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks yesterday, but US military officials said they appeared to have been the work of the insurgent group known as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
That group has tried to mount attacks on both Sunnis and Shi’ites, apparently in the hope that each will blame and attack the other, plunging Iraq back into civil war.
“I have seen a change over time with Al Qaeda in Iraq,’’ said Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, the US military’s spokesman in Iraq, in an interview at Umm Qasr, the port where the Iraqi military was celebrating Navy Day. “They seem to be attacking groups to get a sectarian conflict regenerated. But unlike years past, especially in the worst days of 2006 and 2007, the Iraqi people seem determined to deal with terrorists as terrorists, and not make it a sectarian conflict.’’