BAGHDAD – Bombings blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq tore through market areas in Baghdad and outside the capital on Tuesday, killing nearly 60 people and shattering weeks of relative calm in Sunni-dominated areas.
The bloodshed – in four cities as far north as Mosul and as far west as Ramadi – struck directly at U.S. claims that the Sunni insurgency is waning and being replaced by Shiite militia violence as a major threat.
The deadliest blasts took place in Baqouba and Ramadi, two cities where the U.S. military has claimed varying degrees of success in getting Sunnis to turn against al-Qaida.
In Baqouba, the Diyala provincial capital 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, a parked car exploded about 11:30 a.m. in front of a restaurant across the street from the central courthouse and other government offices.
The force of the blast jolted the concrete barriers erected along the road to protect the courthouse, witnesses said.
At least 40 people were killed and 70 wounded, according to hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.
It was the deadliest bombing in Iraq since March 6, when a twin bombing killed 68 people in a crowded shopping district in the central Baghdad district of Karradah. The attack was also the deadliest in Baqouba since the Associated Press began tracking Iraqi casualties in late April 2005.
The U.S. military said Tuesday that attacks in Baqouba have dropped noticeably since last June. But a series of assassinations and other high-profile attacks have occurred in and around the city this year, and American commanders have consistently warned that al-Qaida-led insurgents continue to pose a serious danger.
“Although attacks such as today’s event are tragic, it is not indicative of the overall security situation in Baqouba,” Maj. Mike Garcia, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Diyala province, said in a statement.
Tuesday’s bombing in Ramadi came about an hour after the Baqouba attack.
A suicide attacker on a motorcycle drove up to a kebab restaurant, went inside and detonated his explosives vest, killing at least 13 people, including three off-duty policemen and two children, and wounding 20, according to police and hospital officials.