BAGHDAD – A wave of car bombings targeting those celebrating the end of Ramadan across Iraq killed 69 people Saturday, a bloody reminder of the inability of Iraqi authorities to stop violence threatening to spiral out of control.
Violence has been on the rise across Iraq since a deadly crackdown by government forces on a Sunni protest camp in April, and attacks against civilians and security forces noticeably spiked during Ramadan. The surge of attacks has sparked fears that the country could see a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007.
The bloodshed also comes after Iraqi security forces promised to step up efforts to increase security to protect the public during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations that mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This year’s Ramadan was the most violent since 2007, with 671 people killed.
“My shop’s windows were smashed and smoke filled the whole area,” said shoe shop owner Saif Mousa, who survived an attack near his store in New Baghdad. “I went outside of the shop and I could hardly see because of the smoke. … At the end, we had a terrible day that was supposed to be nice because of Eid.”
Many of the attacks occurred within an hour of each other, suggesting a level of coordination in the assaults. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, though security forces and civilians are frequently targeted by al-Qaida’s Iraq branch.
Police said the deadliest of Saturday’s attacks took place when a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a residential area in the town of Tuz Khormato, killing eight people and wounding dozens, Mayor Shalal Abdool said. The town is about 130 miles north of the Iraqi capital.
Iraqi officials have attributed the recent uptick in the death toll figures to a change in tactics by insurgents who are now trying to attack crowded, soft civilian targets such as cafes, mosques and markets to kill as many people as possible.