Car bombs and shootings targeted market places and crowded bus stops. Over 200 people have been killed since last Wednesday.
Sunnis, the minority sect, have been protesting mistreatment by the Shia controlled government. They claim that the attacks are retaliation for Sunni domination during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Fears that the conflicts will reach the near civil war levels of 2006-2007 seem plausible.
In Basra, a usually peaceful and mainly Shia Muslim city, a bomb killed at least 14 outside a restaurant and the main bus station.
“We were sitting here waiting for work and as usual we gathered near a street food cart and the place was very crowded,” Basra resident Mohammed Ali, who was near one of the blasts, told Reuters news agency.
“I crossed the street to the other side when all of a sudden it turned dark, dust filled the area. I was showered with metal wreckage and wounded in my legs.”
Iraqis have not witnessed violence on the scale of the last few weeks for nearly five years, says the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Baghdad.
And the Syrian conflict may have contributed to the escalation.
The increase in sectarian violence began in April when government forces clashed with Sunni protestors in Nawija near Kirkuk, when more than 50 were killed.
Friday at least 60 Sunnis were killed in areas around Baghdad. These occurred after multiple attacks targeted predominately Shia areas.
Iraq is a country divided internally by religious sects and ethnicity. When the United States invaded Iraq, it de-stabilized a delicate relationship between internal forces and foes. When Hussein fell, so did the Sunnis, who now claim mistreatment politically and economically.
The Shia make up approximately 60% of the nation’s population, and are now in control of the government.
The 2006-2007 time period saw Sunnis, linked to al-Qaeda, levy attacks against Shiite targets. This was previously the worst sectarian violence in the country’s history.
After the Shia achieved control, they were accused of driving Sunnis out of areas which were multi-cultural, and resulted in rampant abuses.
The country’s religions break down into these percentages: 97% Muslim (Shia 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%.
The country’s ethnicity: Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5%.
“How long do we have to continue living like this, with all the lies from the government?” asked 23-year-old Baghdad resident Malik Ibrahim. “Whenever they say they have reached a solution, the bombings come back stronger than before.”
“We’re fed up with them and we can’t tolerate this anymore,” he added.
The Guardian Express