BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Suicide attackers and car bombs struck cities across Iraq yesterday, killing at least 50 people and wounding scores more in a rash of apparently coordinated assaults carried out by affiliates of al Qaeda, authorities said.
In the worst attack, a roadside bomb followed by a car bomb targeting police killed at least 37 people in Kut, a mainly Shi’ite Muslim city 150 km (95 miles) southeast of the capital Baghdad, police and health officials said.
Dhiyauddin Jalil, a director of local provincial health department, said more than 68 people were wounded in the Kut blasts and doctors in the city’s main hospital said they were struggling to treat casualties, many with severe burns.
“These attacks… are trying to influence the security situation and undermine confidence in the security forces,” said Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Baghdad security operations, blaming al Qaeda-linked groups.
Violence in Iraq has subsided dramatically since the height of sectarian slaughter in 2006-07. But militants are increasingly testing local security forces as the last American troops prepare to withdraw by an end-of-year deadline.
Kut had been relatively quiet since August last year when a suicide bomber killed 30 policemen and destroyed a police station as the U.S. military ended combat operations in Iraq.
Dozens more were killed or wounded on Monday in bombings and attacks in other cities, puncturing the relative calm of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
At least eight people were killed and 14 wounded when a suicide car bomber attacked a municipality building in Khan Bani Saad, about 30 km (20 miles) northeast of Baghdad, in the province of Diyala, two police sources said yesterday.
Two suicide bombers attacked an Iraqi counter-terrorism unit in Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad, killing at least two policemen and wounding six in a failed attempt to free al Qaeda prisoners, a police official said.
One attacker detonated his suicide vest hoping to kill a high-ranking counter-terrorism officer, and the other was shot dead during the attack, said Captain Jassim al-Jibouri, an officer with the Tikrit counter terrorism unit.