BAGHDAD - Car bombs ripped through busy streets and markets
in Iraq on Monday, killing at least 60 people in predominantly Shi'ite areas in
some of the deadliest violence since Sunni insurgents stepped up attacks this
The 17 blasts, which appeared to be coordinated, were concentrated
on towns and cities in Iraq's mainly Shi'ite south, and districts of the capital
where Shi'ites live.
Militant groups including al Qaeda have increased
attacks in recent months in an insurgency against the Shi'ite-led government as
a civil war in neighboring Syria heightens sectarian tensions.
violence has raised fears of a return to full-blown intercommunal conflict in a
country where ethnic Kurds, majority Shi'ites and Sunni Muslims have yet to find
a stable way of sharing power.
In Baghdad's Shi'ite stronghold of Sadr
city, police and witnesses said a minivan drew up to a group of men waiting by
the side of the road for day work, and the driver told them to get in before
detonating an explosive device in the vehicle.
"The driver asked
laborers to get into the van, then he disappeared and minutes later the truck
exploded, flinging the laborers' bodies back," said Yahya Ali, a worker who was
"Somebody tell me please why poor laborers are
targeted? They want only to take food to their families!" Monday's attacks
underscore deteriorating security in Iraq, where nearly 4,000 people have been
killed since the start of the year, said violence monitoring group Iraq Body
Count. In July, more than 810 people were killed in militant
"I am deeply concerned about the heightened
level of violence which carries the danger that the country falls back into
sectarian strife," said acting United Nations envoy to Iraq, Gyorgy
"Iraq is bleeding from random violence, which sadly reached
record heights during the holy month of Ramadan." At least 10 people were killed
when two car bombs blew up near a bus station in the city of Kut, 150 km (95
miles) southeast of the capital, police said.
Four more were killed in a
blast in the town of Mahmoudiya, about 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, and
two bombs in Samawa, further south, killed two.
The rest of the bombings
took place across Baghdad, in the districts of Habibiya, Hurriya, Bayaa, Ur,
Shurta, Kadhimiya, Risala, Tobchi and Abu Dsheer.
An assault on Abu
Ghraib prison last week raised questions about the ability of Iraq's security
services to combat al Qaeda, which has been regrouping and striking with a
ferocity not seen in years.
"Today's attacks are closely linked with the
Taji and Abu Ghraib prison breaks, which have encouraged terrorist groups to
launch further attacks in areas of a specific sect to put more pressure on the
government and undermine security force morale", Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior
member of the security and defense committee in parliament, told
Insurgents have been recruiting from the country's Sunni
minority, which increasingly resents Shi'ite domination since the US-led
invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, in 2003.
The Syrian conflict
has drawn Shi'ites and Sunnis from Iraq and beyond into battle against each
On Monday, a roadside bomb killed a senior police officer, his
aide and two guards when it hit their convoy near Baiji, 180 km (112 miles)
north of the capital, and five roadside bombs targeted a police patrol in
Baghdad's Palestine Street.