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Iraq war veterans, members of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and Federation of Workers Councils in Iraq, protest outside the White House in Washington DC marking the 10th anniversary of the war. The three organisations launched the “right to heal” campaign, addressing human rights violations in Iraq.
BAGHDAD: Attacks killed 52 in Iraq yesterday as some ministers began a boycott of government and officials delayed provincial polls, heightening tensions on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion.
At least 20 explosions and multiple shootings also left more than 170 people wounded in the country’s bloodiest day in more than six months, reflecting the brutal unrest and endless political crises that were sparked by an invasion that had aimed to build a democratic ally in the heart of the Middle East. The attacks come amid a spike in violence that has raised fresh questions about the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, with separate reports by Britain-based Iraq Body Count and researchers in The Lancet putting the overall death toll from the decade of bloodshed at over 112,000 civilians.
Most of yesterday’s attacks struck in Shia neighbourhoods in Baghdad during morning rush hour, with security forces stepping up searches at checkpoints and closing off key roads, worsening the capital’s gridlock, a reporter said. Soldiers and police also established new checkpoints, and unusually, were searching at least some government-marked vehicles that are typically allowed to pass uninspected.
In all, at least 15 car bombs were set off, including two by suicide attackers, along with multiple roadside bombs and gun attacks, officials said. Yesterday was the deadliest day since September 9, when 76 people were killed.
It could have been much worse, however, as security forces claimed to have arrested 26 militants with dozens of bombs and missiles that they apparently planned to set off in Baghdad, state television reported.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the violence, but Sunni militants often target Shia civilians and government employees in a bid to destabilise the country. Violence has spiked ahead of the 10th anniversary, with 116 people killed in the past week, according to a tally based on reports from security and medical officials.
Powerful Shia cleric Muqtada Al Sadr suspended his bloc’s participation in sessions of Iraq’s national unity cabinet, a Sadrist official said, worsening an ongoing political crisis in Iraq which has pitted Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki against members of his government. The move, which the official said was in response to Maliki challenging parliamentary decisions in court, means five ministers loyal to the Sadrist movement will not participate in weekly cabinet meetings until further notice.
Authorities also announced that provincial polls scheduled for April 20, Iraq’s first vote in three years, were delayed in Anbar and Nineveh provinces, citing security concerns including threats to the lives of candidates. Iraqi officials have not announced any ceremonies to mark the anniversary today, with events more likely to be held on April 9, the day Baghdad fell.
Launched with the stated goal of wiping out Saddam’s stores of weapons of mass destruction, which were never found, the focus of the divisive war quickly shifted to solidifying Iraq as a Western ally in an unstable region.
Though the war itself was relatively brief — it began on March 20, 2003, Baghdad fell weeks later, and then-US president George W Bush infamously declared the mission accomplished on May 1 — its aftermath was violent and bloody. Britain-based Iraq Body Count has said that more than 112,000 civilians have been killed since the 2003 invasion.