More than 800 people died during the bloody month of Ramadan. On Saturday, the most recent victims were claimed, when car bombs ripped through Baghdad cafes and markets and shootings struck elsewhere, killing 61 more. Saturday’s deaths marked the end of one of Iraq’s deadliest Ramadan holy months in years.
The attacks, which authorities have failed to stem, marked the worst amount of bloodshed in five years. The continued violence has raided worries that Iraq is returning to the all-out Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict that has killed tens of thousands in past years.
The latest deaths come just weeks after hundreds of militants were freed from prisons near Baghdad by an Al-Qaeda front group.
Officials had hailed major security operations against militants as having resulted in the killing and capture of many, but that was before Saturday’s deadly attacks which killed 61.
The deaths were caused by 16 car bombs and a series of shootings and other blasts. Besides the 61 people killed, nearly 300 were wounded across the country Saturday, security and medical officials said. This occurred as Iraqis celebrated the Eid al-Fitr holidays which follow the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
In apparently coordinated strikes, a spate of vehicles rigged with explosives were detonated in eight different neighborhoods of Baghdad.
The explosions killed 37 of Saturday’s victims. They occurred at public markets, cafes, and restaurants. According to security and medical officials, violence earlier during the day killed two others in the capital.
Medics treated a man at Baghdad’s Al-Kindi hospital who was apparently a soldier. His face, chest and arms were covered in blood.
They sprinted into the hospital pushing people on stretchers. One of the wounded was a blanket-swathed man whose eyes were closed. Weeping, another man ran behind the stretcher as it was wheeled into the hospital.
Also on Saturday, a suicide bomber near a police checkpoint in Tuz Khurmatu, north of the capital, detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle killing nine people. In Kirkuk, also north of Baghdad, a car bomb killed an engineer.
In the southern city of Nasiriyah, two car bombs killed four. A car bomb in the shrine city of Karbala left five others dead.
Meanwhile, in Babil and the Nineveh provinces, three people were killed and five others wounded in separate attacks.
The dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan, which began in the second week of July and ended this week, resulted in the deaths of more than 800 altogether.
The favorite targets of militants ranged from cafes where Iraqis gathered after breaking their daily fast, to mosques where extended evening prayers were held during the month.
Analysts, as well as global police organisation Interpol, warned that the jailbreaks which occurred earlier in the month could lead to a rise in attacks, as the escapees were said to include senior Al-Qaeda militants.
Security forces have launched major operations, among the biggest since the December 2011 withdrawal of US forces. The operations are designed to target militants in multiple provinces including Baghdad.
Ever since an April 23 security operation at a Sunni Arab anti-government protest site that sparked clashes in which dozens died, violence has increased this month.
Protests erupted in Sunni-majority areas in late 2012. They were the result of a widespread discontent among Sunnis, who accuse the Shiite-led government of marginalizing and targeting them.
According to analysts, Sunni anger is the main cause of the spike in violence this year.
This year’s holy Ramadan month went from one that was supposed to be marked with fasting to one which was marked by widespread violence and deaths in which more than 800 died.
Written by: Douglas Cobb