BAGHDAD – Ramadan this year is shaping up to be the deadliest in Iraq since a bloody insurgency and rampant sectarian killings pushed the country to the edge of civil war in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Suicide attacks, car bombings and other violence have killed at least 169 Iraqis just seven days into the Islamic holy month. The death toll in the first week of Ramadan hasn’t been that high since 2007, raising fears that Iraq is slipping back to widespread chaos.
There seems to be little pattern in the range of targets, adding to the sense of unease in what is meant to be a month of spiritual growth and generosity.
Several of those killed over the past week died at a busy northern teashop while playing mehebis, a game where players hope to win sweets by guessing who among their opposing team is hiding a ring in their hands. Others were slain as they swam with friends, or as they shopped for festive evening dinners, or made their way home from mosques after late-night prayers.
Even for Iraqis who have grown used to hearing about random violence, day after day of double-digit death tolls makes for a worrying trend.
Many choose to stay home after breaking their dawn-to-dusk fast rather than venture out for festive family get-togethers and late-night cafe sessions, worrying they could be among the next victims.
The bloodshed during Ramadan is an extension of a surge of attacks that has been roiling Iraq since the spring. It follows months of rallies by Iraq’s minority Sunnis against the Shiite-led government over what they contend is second-class treatment and the unfair use of tough anti-terrorism measures against their sect.
At least six people were killed in a bomb blast near a Sunni mosque late Tuesday in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, police and hospital officials said.