SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A spate of attacks has killed at least 82 people in Iraq, overshadowing preparations to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid warnings insurgents would look to carry out deadly strikes.
The violence, the worst in more than three weeks, hit 15 cities across the country and left 270 people wounded on Thursday, just days before the Eid festival that is set to begin on Saturday or Sunday. Some estimates hold the number of dead to be as high as 93.
More than 150 people have already been killed in violence this month.
The attacks brought the number of dead nationwide over the course of Ramadan, which began on July 18, to 404, according to an AFP tally. There has been at least one bombing or shooting on every day of the holy month but one.
Thursday's attacks began with a pre-dawn raid on the house of a military officer.
Attackers planted four bombs around his house near the northern city of Kirkuk, according to the city's police commander, brigadier general Sarhad Qadir. The officer escaped unharmed, but his brother was killed and six other family members were wounded.
Hours later, a bomb in a parked car exploded near a string of restaurants, killing one and wounding 15, Qadir said.
The blast seriously damaged the eateries' storefronts, scattering shattered glass and debris across the sidewalk.
Thursday's deadliest violence struck in and around Baghdad, where at least 54 people were killed in a series of attacks throughout the day, security and medical officials said. Blasts and shootings also took place in the south, west and north of Iraq.
In the east Baghdad neighbourhood of Zafraniyah, a roadside bomb went off outside an ice cream parlour late on Thursday evening, killing four people and wounding 11.
A subsequent car bomb nearby killed 22 more and left 30 wounded.Also in the evening, an explosion in Sadr City, in the capital's north, killed 11 people and wounded 46, while a morning car bomb in Husseiniyah, also in north Baghdad, killed six and wounded 32.
All three neighbourhoods are predominantly Shia.
Meanwhile, gunmen armed with silenced weapons opened fire on a checkpoint in the town of Massud, on Baghdad's northern outskirts, killing 10 soldiers and wounding 10, security and medical officials said. In the same area, a car bomb in the town of Taji killed one person and wounded six.
There were also attacks in Tal Afar, Mosul, Kirkuk, Daquq, Dibis, Kut, Al-Garma, Al-Baaj, Badush, Tuz Khurmatu, Khales and Baquba.
A series of attacks in Kirkuk province, north of Baghdad, killed nine people.
In the town of Daquq, a suicide attacker blew himself up at an anti-terrorism department compound, while in Kirkuk itself at least four car bombs were set off across the city -- including two at the offices of the state-owned North Oil Company.
"I came to investigate one of the attacks near the company compound," said police Colonel Abdullah Kadhim, head of Kirkuk city's sniffer dog unit.
"Suddenly, another bomb went off near me, and it damaged lots of cars and company property inside the parking lot."
Kadhim suffered wounds to his leg.
The attacks in the two cities left eight dead and 56 wounded overall. Also in Kirkuk province, two bombings near the home of a police captain in the town of Dibis killed his brother and wounded four other people, including the captain himself, police and a doctor said.
In northern town of Tal Afar, a suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt killed six people and wounded 10 , officials said.
In Kut, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded on Thursday evening, police Colonel Dhargham al-Assadi said. Six people were killed and 37 wounded, a medic said.
Attacks in Al-Garma, Al-Baaj, Badush, Tuz Khurmatu, Mosul, Taji, Khales and Baquba, left seven dead and dozens wounded.
Fears of Eid attacks
Iraqi officials are tightening security ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this weekend. Authorities are seeking to thwart a possible upsurge in violence as crowds gather in public places such as parks, shrines and mosques to mark the occasion.
"Our security forces have received intelligence that terrorist groups are planning and preparing for attacks during and after Eid," said Abdul-Karim Tharib, the head of provincial security in Baghdad. "We... have taken all necessary measures to foil any terrorist attacks during Eid."
The security measures will include an increased number of checkpoints and road closures near government offices, parks and shrines, an interior ministry official said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda's Iraq branch.
It has declared its aim to reclaim areas from which it was routed by the US and its local allies.
More than 100 people have been killed in violence across the country since the start of the month, showing that the fighters remain a lethal force eight months after the last US troops left the country.—www.shafaqna.com/english