Bombs rip through Baghdad

February 07, 2014 - 7:16:22 am

bomb explosions in the Al Obeidi Shia area, on the outskirts of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD: Seven bombs ripped through Baghdad killing five people yesterday, hours after American lawmakers criticised the slow pace of political reconciliation in Iraq which they said was stoking worsening violence.

Diplomats have called for the Shia-led government to do more to reach out to the disaffected Sunni Arab minority, but with a general election looming in April, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has taken a hard line.

Seven bombs went off across Baghdad from around noon, while militants also mounted a massive, though ultimately abortive, assault on a jail in northern Iraq.

The blasts in the capital killed at least five people and wounded more than 40, security and medical officials said.

Four of the neighbourhoods hit are populated mostly by Iraq’s Shia majority. The other three bombs went off in commercial districts in the centre of Baghdad.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but Sunni militant groups, including the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have claimed previous bombing campaigns targeting Shias in the capital.

In Nineveh province in the north, militants mounted a massive assault on Badush prison late on Wednesday, reminiscent of twin attacks on jails near Baghdad last July that succeeded in freeing dozens of inmates.

The attempted prison break left one guard dead and 14 wounded, and involved mortar fire as a riot broke out inside the jail, but was ultimately repulsed, the justice ministry said.

US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said on Wednesday that Maliki’s failure to do more to address Sunni grievances had allowed ISIL to exploit the minority community’s “alienation” to sharply step up its attacks.

“As head of state, while he may not be up to it, Maliki must take steps to lead Iraq to a post-sectarian era,” Royce said.

“Al Qaeda has become very skilled at exploiting this sectarian rift, and Maliki’s power grab has given them much ammunition.”

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk insisted Maliki had made changes since he visited Washington in November and “got a very direct message” from President Barack Obama on “enlisting the Sunnis into the fight”.