Bombings, drive-by shootings kill at least 99 across Iraq

Attacks come as country awaits new gov't to be formed more than two months after landmark parliamentary elections.

Iraq bomb attack 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Iraq bomb attack 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a textile factory Monday in a crowd that gathered after two cars bombings at the same spot in the worst of a series of attacks killing nearly 100 across Iraq, the deadliest day this year.
The violence added to fears that political uncertainty could further destabilize the country. More than two months after the March 7 elections, there is still no new government in sight and the negotiations to form one could drag on for months more as US troops prepare to withdraw.
The government blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for violence in Baghdad, saying the terror group is stepping up its attacks now to exploit political instability. More than two months after the March 7 elections, it is not clear who will control the next Iraqi government and the U.S. is planning to pull out half of its 92,000 troops over the next four months.
In the latest in a series of attacks that killed 99 people, three bombs hit the southern Shi'ite port city of Basra in the evening. At least one exploded in a marketplace, killing at least 15, hospital and police officials said.
The violence began in the capital where at least 10 people were killed in what appeared to be coordinated attacks against police and army checkpoints across Baghdad. Both Shiites and Sunnis were targeted in attacks around the country.
In the worst attack of the day, a suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his belt blew himself up among a crowd of people who were trying to help victims of two car bombs that went off earlier outside a textile factory in the Shi’ite city of Hillah south of Baghdad, said provincial police spokesman Maj. Muthana Khalid.
At least 45 were killed and 140 wounded, said Khalid and Zuhair al Khafaji, director of al-Hillah general hospital.
Police said the cars were parked outside the factory about 25 yards apart, and were believed to be detonated by remote control. Khalid said the bombs exploded around 1:30 p.m. as workers were leaving the factory.
Hillah, the capital of Babil province, is 95 kilometers south of Baghdad.
The attack was the deadliest in a series of shootings and bombings across the country that began in the capital Baghdad with early morning drive-by shootings and bombings at security checkpoints that targeted police and army.
Other attacks targeted both Sunni and Shi’ite areas and by mid-afternoon, at least 75 were killed across Iraq, and hundreds wounded.
Violence in the city and the rest of the country has fallen dramatically since the height of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007.
Attacks come as Iraq awaits new gov't
Violence in the city and the rest of the country has fallen dramatically since the height of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007. But with two months gone after Iraq's March 7 election and no government in sight, there are concerns that the sectarian violence that once battered the city daily will reappear.
The election has pitted incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against fellow Shi’ite, but secular challenger Ayad Allawi. Allawi's Iraqiya coalition, heavily backed by the country's Sunni Arab minority, won 91 seats compared to Maliki's 89 seats, but the prime minister has challenged the results at every turn.
On Monday, Allawi told reporters he has been trying for days to meet with Maliki and begin hammering out a compromise. But he vowed again to fight attempts to overturn the election results that gave his political party the lead. Efforts to disqualify some of its winning candidates who are accused of links to the outlawed Baath Party "must be halted," he said.
"We refuse humiliation and we won't stand still if the harm against Iraqiya continues," Allawi said.
The election results have yet to be certified by the country's highest court — which must happen before any new government can be formed — and a recount demanded by Maliki in Baghdad is ongoing.
If the results are overturned or Allawi does not receive a legitimate shot at forming a government, that could in turn outrage the Sunnis who supported him. Sunni anger at Shi’ite domination of successive governments was a key reason behind the insurgency.