November 3, 2010
Bombings and mortar strikes killed 76 people and wounded more than 200 others across Baghdad yesterday.
The blasts in at least 13 neighborhoods clearly were designed to hit civilians at restaurants and cafes where many Iraqis were gathered to enjoy the warm evening. The sophistication and the targets — Shiites — suggested that al-Qaida-linked Sunni militants were responsible.
“They say the situation is under the control. Where is their control?” said Hussein al-Saiedi, a 26-year-old resident of Baghdad’s sprawling Sadr City slum, where 21 people were killed when a parked car blew up near a market in yesterday’s deadliest bombing.
The bombings began about 6:15 p.m. and lasted for hours. The assailants used booby-trapped cars and a motorcycle, roadside bombs, and mortars. Though 10 neighborhoods targeted were home mostly to Shiites, a couple of strikes hit Sunni communities as well.
In addition to the 76 dead, 232 people were wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on al-Qaida.
The surge in violence is raising fresh concerns about the planned pullout of American troops next year. The U.S. now has fewer than 50,000 troops in Iraq, down from a wartime high of 170,000.
A State Department audit concluded yesterday that the Obama administration could be overstating what U.S. diplomats can do to contain Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian tensions without U.S. military forces. The auditors also questioned whether American diplomats who remain behind will be protected adequately.
In its report, the State Department’s office of inspector general said stability in Iraq may be years away.
Stephen Biddle, an Iraq watcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it will be difficult for U.S. diplomats to keep a lid on Sunni-Shiite and Arab-Kurd rivalries in the absence of a sizable American military presence.
“Normally, stabilizing a situation like this requires peacekeepers,” he said.
Yesterday’s blasts came just hours after Christians gathered at a church to mourn 58 people killed in an assault on a Sunday Mass. An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for that attack — the deadliest ever against Iraq’s dwindling Christian community.
“They murdered us today, and on Sunday they killed our brothers the Christians,” al-Saiedi said.