Suicide bombers, gunfire apparently coordinated
BAGHDAD – A series of blasts and gunshots ripped across Iraq on Monday, killing at least 65 people and wounding more than 300 in a spasm of bloodshed that raised fresh concerns that the nation’s security forces might be overwhelmed by insurgents when American soldiers withdraw later this year.
The sprawling attacks, including suicide bombers, car explosions and militants firing Kalashnikovs, struck from north to south throughout the morning in what appeared to be a coordinated plan. Soldiers, police officers and market shoppers were targeted in Najaf, Kut, Baghdad, Baqouba and other areas.
There were more than 35 attacks nationwide as the relative calm of recent months was shattered. The deadliest site was in the southern city of Kut when an explosion whirled through a marketplace. Minutes later, as onlookers gathered, a car bomb detonated, killing at least 33 people and injuring 77, according to a security official.
Ali Haidari, a security expert, said the assaults came shortly after Abu Mohammed Adnani was named al-Qaida’s new leader in Iraq. Haidari said the terrorist group had been announcing for weeks on its website that it was preparing a major operation to exploit the perceived weakness of Iraqi forces.
The violence was relentless, befalling Shiite and Sunni alike. In Diyala province, a series of car bombs and shootings left 14 people dead in a region known for al-Qaida fighters. In Najaf, a suicide bomber detonated and five minutes later a parked car exploded near a police building, killing two police officers and four civilians. Five security officers and a counterterrorism chief were killed in suicide bombings in Tikrit.
Gunfire and explosions echoed through the capital. A car bomb exploded near a motorcade carrying an official from the Higher Education Ministry, killing one passer-by and wounding seven police and civilians. Al Arabiya television reported that a curfew had been imposed on several regions.