At least 40 people have died and scores wounded in a series of car bombs attacks across Iraqi cities on Monday.
In the capital city of Baghdad, eight explosions at crowded bus stations and markets mainly in the Shi’ite Muslim districts have killed at least 20 people, according to police and medics.
Eleven others died in the southern Shi’ite city of Basra, when two car bombs struck a busy market and a bus terminal. According to police, 115 people were injured in the mayhem on Monday. Explosions were also reported in the southern city of Samarra but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The bombs at the Basra bus station tore through food stalls that serve travelers. Pavements were stained with blood.
Talib Dakhil , a Basra resident, said he was at the bus terminal when the bombs exploded.
“This will not discourage us from continuing out life,” he said. “We will continue challenging terrorism, whatever happens.”
Some residents in Baghdad, blamed the government and political parties for the bloodshed and the lack of security.
In a separate incident, gunmen killed seven policemen in the Anbar province overnight.
Bombings and other attacks are linked to a growing political and sectarian divide in Iraq between minority Sunni Muslims and majority Shi’ites who now hold power. The country’s Sunni minority have accused authorities of targeting their community, including wrongful detentions.
Disillusioned by Shi’ite dominance since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, minority Sunnis have been staging street protests against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki since December. The Iraqi prime minister has denied these charges and refuted claims that his government is involved in violence. He, however, blamed sectarianism for the surge in hostilities in Iraq.
“The bloodshed … is a result of sectarian hatred,” he said in televised remarks. “These crimes are a natural result of the sectarian mindset.”
Tensions between the two groups have been festering and have reached their highest level since U.S. troops withdrew from the country in December 2011.
In April security forces raided an anti-government protest Sunni camp in Nawija near Kirkuk leading to the deaths of 50 people.
The sharp spike in attacks has raised fears of a return to the widespread sectarian violence of 2006-2007 that brought the country to the brink of civil war.
No one group has claimed responsibility for the attacks but reports say such large bombings bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq.
By one U.N. count, more than 700 people were killed in April, the highest figure in almost five years.
By Perviz Wali