BAGHDAD – Car bombs around Iraq killed at least 65 people Monday amid the worst wave of violence in the country since U.S. troops withdrew a year and a half ago.
The attacks, which occurred along busy commercial streets in Shiite and Sunni areas, followed a string of bombings and other attacks last week that killed more than 200 people. The ongoing violence has stoked the impression among Iraqis that the country is sliding back into chaos reminiscent of the civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives between 2005 and 2008.
Citing a number of sources, the Associated Press put the death toll Monday at 95 or more.
Among the most worrying of the day’s attacks were a pair of car bombings in the southern city of Basra that killed at least 10 people. The previous day, Basra’s security commanders asserted that they had imposed new protective measures in the region, home to the vast majority of Iraq’s oil production and exports.
The Basra attack drew attention to how even the south is no longer free from strife. The region, with its Shiite Muslim majority, has been relatively quiet compared with areas in the north such as Baghdad, where Shiites and the country’s Sunni Muslim minority live close together.
Sunnis, who believe they have been marginalized since the fall of President Saddam Hussein in 2003, have served as the backbone of a tenacious resistance to the country’s Shiite-dominated government.
The bloodshed, coupled with an intractable dispute between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sunni protesters who are demanding a repeal of laws they say discriminate against them, has left many fearful that Iraq is on the verge of splintering.
In the aftermath of Monday’s bombings, al-Maliki warned lawmakers to stay away from a parliamentary session scheduled for today by his rivals to discuss the spiraling violence. He accused politicians he refused to name of being behind the unrest.
Many Baghdad residents were shaken by the bombings and the political discord.
“We still have a dream that one day all of us could see Baghdad without an explosion. It seems that day will never come,” said grocery shop owner Aamer Abdullah, 55. “The citizens of Baghdad prefer to stay in their homes instead of going out and getting killed. We blame the politicians and the security forces equally for what happened.
“Iraqi now is heading to the abyss,” he added.