At least 52 people were killed in a bloody explosion of violence across Iraq on Monday, including a spate of bombings against buses carrying people to work.
The attacks underlined the parlous security situation in Iraq as agreement on the key defence and interior ministries remained elusive despite the formation of a new government on May 20, five months after national elections.
Despite repeated assertions that a final decision on the security ministers was imminent, the positions remain unfilled because of bickering among the major political parties.
In the deadliest attack on Monday, 14 people were killed and 17 wounded when a bomb tore through a bus carrying Iraqis work from Khalis, about 80km north of Baghdad, to Camp Ashraf, the home of an Iranian opposition movement.
“The workers were ordinary Iraqi citizens who had ordinary jobs since a long time ago in the city of Ashraf,” said Shahriar Kia, a spokesperson for the movement, which blamed Iran’s regime for the attack in Diyala province.
The organisation said the bombing recalled an attack against a bus carrying members of the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran to Ashraf in June 1999 which left six dead.
Another 12 people were killed, including a child, and 24 wounded when a massive car bomb exploded in Baghdad’s predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Adhamiyah.
Only a minutes later, a second car bomb exploded in the same district, killing five and wounding seven.
Just across the Tigris, a bus in the Shi’ite neighbourhood of Kadhimiya was blown up, killing seven people and wounding nine.
In southern Baghdad, another bomb went off inside a minibus, killing two Iraqis and wounding one.
A car bomb also exploded next to a police patrol in the Karrada neighbourhood of Baghdad near the German embassy, killing three people and wounding five.
Another nine people were killed in other violence, highlighting the surge in attacks against ordinary Iraqis trying to go about their daily lives despite the Sunni-led insurgency and a flare-up of sectarian violence.
The breakdown in security was the main topic of Monday’s parliamentary session as MPs took a break from debating internal rules to discuss the deteriorating situation in Diyala and the southern Basra province.
“The US control over security matters is worsening the security situation in Baquba, which prevents Diyala province from fighting terrorism,” said Shi’ite MP Jalal Eddin Sagheer.
Parliament agreed to form a committee to study the matter but could not agree on its composition and adjourned the session until Sunday.
Iraqi and US officials have said local security forces could start taking over responsibility from the US-led troops for at least two provinces by the summer, though for Baghdad it would not be until the end of the year.
Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd, told CNN Sunday that the delicate process of appeasing the four major parties in the national unity government was causing the delay in naming the security ministers and appealed for international patience.
“We have committed as part of that compact to include all communities of Iraq, that the ministers of defence and interior will be agreed to by the main communities,” he said.
“That is a difficult challenge because in this polarised society, there are different views about particularly the issue of security.”
Sources close to the dominant conservative Shi’ite United Iraqi Alliance said the delay over choosing the interior minister, who will be a Shi’ite, was due to squabbling between Shi’ite factions themselves.
In other violence on Monday, there was a series of incidents across the south of Iraq, mostly drive-by shootings against security personnel.
Britain announced on Monday that two of its soldiers were killed and two injured in a roadside bomb attack the day before in the main southern city of Basra, where British forces are based.
Though less affected by the largely Sunni-run insurgency in the center and west, the Shi’ite south is plagued by battles between various militias.
“We’ll deal with the issues of militias by laying ahead of us a road map for rehabilitation and reintegration of these people back into public life of Iraqi politics or Iraqi state,” Saleh said.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has several times since his inauguration promised to address the phenomenon, which is largely restricted to organisations linked to his Shi’ite allies. – AFP