Bombs give the lie to Iraq security

A series of co-ordinated explosions killed at least 74 people and wounded 250 more across Iraq on Monday, shattering the calm during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and showing that extremists remain a threat more than eight years after the fall of Baghdad.

The bombs were detonated in largely Shia Muslim areas of the country and casualties were mostly Shia-led security forces. A Sunni extremist group, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, was blamed.

A jihadist site praised the attacks and said they targeted “Shi’ites, Christians and the apostate awakening councils”, in reference to the United States-backed Sunni groups who turned on al-Qaeda in 2007.

In total 13 bombs exploded; many were apparently detonated by suicide bombers. If so, this would ­further undermine Iraqi and US military claims that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi jihadist groups are a spent force after almost a decade of war.

The deadliest blast was in the southeastern city of Kut, where 37 people were killed by a roadside bomb and then a car bomb, which detonated as bystanders gathered following the first explosion.

In the Shia shrine cities of Kerbala and Najaf up to 11 security officers and members of the public were killed by car bombs. Bombs rocked Baquba, Tikrit and Kirkuk and there were at least six explosions in Baghdad, although only three people were killed in the capital.

The ease with which car bombs were moved around Iraq is a further blow to the standing of Iraq’s security forces, which insist they have contained sectarian violence and have Sunni and Shia extremist groups under control.

Despite monthly death tolls now sharply below those during the sectarian war of 2006-2007, large-scale violence still occurs quite frequently in Iraq, which has convinced some local politicians to ask departing US forces to remain after the mandated end of their mission in December.

The US military is prepared to consider an unspecified number of troops staying on in Iraq as trainers but with roles that would likely have a broader mandate. US advisers are wary of the fragile security gains in Iraq unwinding when they leave. This would be a bitter setback after the more than 4 000 lives lost and an estimated $500-billion spent fighting a war that aimed to reshape Iraq as a pluralist democracy.

Whether US troops stay or go is unlikely to be decided until at least November, with many MPs appearing to fear the future without the safety blanket of well-armed and better-trained soldiers on call for any crisis. But Shia extremist groups, including the Sadrist party, which has 39 seats in Iraq’s 325-seat parliament, have vowed to oppose any troop extension violently. Militia killed at least 12 US soldiers in June in a series of rocket and roadside bomb attacks, widely interpreted as an attempt to create the impression that troops were being forced to flee. —

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