iraq attack 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A wave of bombings and shootings swept Iraq on Wednesday, killing at least 50 people and raising fears that al-Qaida had launched a promised new offensive. The US military acknowledged that violence was on the upswing and blamed it on the terror movement.
Also Wednesday, US and Iraqi officials announced that Iraqi and American troops raided the Iraqi military academy the day before and arrested cadets and instructors allegedly linked to the kidnap-slaying of the former superintendent and the abduction of his replacement, who was later freed.
Police reported at least six car bombings around the country Wednesday, an increase over the pattern of attacks in recent weeks, though US officials insisted that violence was still below levels of last year.
Wednesday's deadliest attack occurred when a suicide driver detonated an explosives-laden truck near the home of a Sunni Arab tribal leader near Sinjar, 390 kilometers northwest of Baghdad.
Hospital director Kifah Mohammed said 10 people were killed and nine wounded, including the sheik. The sheik's son, who worked as a government contractor, was killed, the director said. The US military said the sheik had spoken out against al-Qaida.
Six civilians were killed and 28 were wounded when a pair of car bombs exploded Wednesday evening in an outdoor market in Baghdad's southwestern district of Baiyaa, police said. Shi'ite militias have driven thousands of Sunnis from Baiyaa this year.
The private National Iraqi News Agency quoted an unnamed police official as saying 32 people were killed in the blast, but officers at two nearby police stations disputed the figure.
In Mosul, 360 kilometers northwest of Baghdad. a suicide car bomb struck a court building under construction, killing three people and wounding about 30, police said.
Three civilians died when a suicide car bomber attacked a police patrol in Mosul, police Brig. Gen. Saeed Ahmed al-Jubouri said.
In the south, a bomb exploded Wednesday evening near the main gate of a Sunni mosque in the town of Abu al-Khaseeb, about 20 kilometers south of Basra, killing five worshippers and wounding 10 others police reported.
The blast may have been in retaliation for a suicide bombing the day before against the police headquarters in Basra, which killed three policemen and wounded 20 other people. Nearly all the Basra police are Shi'ites.
In Baghdad, gunmen ambushed a car carrying two senior police officers - Maj. Gen. Ayad Jassim Mohammed and Col. Imad Kadim - in the Qadisiyah district, killing both of them, police said.
A Shi'ite adviser to the Iraqi parliament, Thamir Abid Ali Hassoun, was gunned down in eastern Baghdad when assailants blocked an alleyway near his home and sprayed his car with bullets, police said.
The other victims were either found dead in Baghdad and Kut or died in smallscale bombings and shootings in Tikrit, Basra and Diyala province, where US troops have been battling al-Qaida militants.
Also Wednesday, the US command announced that an American soldier had been killed the day before by small arms fire in eastern Baghdad. No further details were released.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Defense Ministry announced its troops had prevented a suicide attack Tuesday by two bomb-laden trucks against a dam on Lake Tharthar.
A ministry statement said the trucks were driven by Afghans but gave no further details. There have been persistent reports that al-Qaida might target dams to flood Baghdad and other cities.
US military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner acknowledged Wednesday that "we have seen an upturn in levels of violence in the last few days" and would step up efforts "to keep pressure on extremist networks" trying to ignite sectarian violence.
"We will continue to keep that focus because we know that this is a specific period of time ... that the insurgents will try to increase the levels of violence," he said, referring to Ramadan.
Iraqi military officials said the six-hour raid started at 10 a.m. Tuesday and was carried out by a special unit under exclusive American command. Scores of cadets and instructors were detained, officials said, giving no figures.
A Defense Ministry official said the suspects were liked to the Shi'ite militia, the Mahdi Army, and were believed part of a network smuggling weapons from Iran.
At the United Nations, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned the UN General Assembly Wednesday that instability in this country would bring "disastrous consequences" to the Middle East and the world.
Maliki said his country had reduced sectarian killings and brought stability to some regions, such as Anbar province in the west. He said thousands of displaced families have been able to return to their homes.