BAGHDAD/RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) – A wave of car bombs exploded across Baghdad yesterday, killing more than 60 people, and militants stormed a university campus in western Iraq, security and medical sources said.
In total, there were a dozen blasts in mainly Shi’ite districts of the capital, the deadliest of which occurred in Bayaa, where a car bomb left 23 people dead, many of them young men playing billiards.
“I was about to close my shop when I heard a huge explosion on the main commercial street,” said Kareem Abdulla, whose legs were still shaking from the shock. “I saw many cars set ablaze as well as shops”.
Other bombs went off near a cinema, a popular juice shop and a Shi’ite mosque.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for any of the bombings, but the Shi’ite community is a frequent target for Sunni Islamist insurgents who have been regaining ground and momentum in Iraq over the past year.
Since Thursday alone, militants have seized parts of Ramadi and Falluja, the two main cities in the mainly Sunni Anbar province. Yesterday, they took control of the campus of Anbar University in Ramadi.
A member of the security and defence committee in parliament said the insurgency could not be quelled by force alone because the root cause was political. Critics of Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government say its treatment of the once-dominant Sunni minority is the main driver of the insurgency.
“The Iraqi government now relies on using force to solve things, that is why security will get worse,” said Shwan Mohammed Taha, predicting that violence could spread to other Sunni-dominated provinces such as Diyala.
“This is not only deterioration, it is a failure to manage the security file.”
Parts of Ramadi have been held by anti-government tribesmen and insurgents since the start of the year. Overnight, gunmen fought their way past guards into the university, planting bombs behind them.