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Middle east

Baghdad blasts death toll passes 150

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-10-26

Hundreds of Iraqi mourners gathered at the site where twin bombs exploded on Sunday killing more than 150 people and wounding at least 500 others.

Reuters - The Iraqi government blamed the bloodiest bombings in years on al Qaeda and other extremists, but many ordinary Iraqis think political infighting before next year's election is the cause and fear worse is yet to come.

Hundreds of mourners poured into the area where twin suicide bombs on Sunday killed 155 people, railing against politicians and the security forces in a funeral march, local media showed. Baghdad was ensnared in a traffic jam as the government, facing criticism for the attacks, set up extra checkpoints.

"The blood of Iraqis is very cheap and I ask, how many victims will it take to convince the government that it has totally failed?" Hameed Salam, a former army officer now driving a taxi cab, shouted in a traffic jam on Monday.

Iraq's January ballot is expected to focus on security gains under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after years of war, and sticky questions about the distribution of power and oil wealth.

The threat of more attacks looms as rivals seek to undermine Maliki, and insurgents try to upset the electoral process.

Many Iraqis say they see divisions and infighting ahead of Iraq's second post-invasion national vote as the prime source of instability in the world's 11th largest crude producer.

While violence has fallen since Washington sent thousands of extra troops, attacks are common in the politically-divided nation of 30 million people, and residents believe that bombings and other clashes are likely to increase ahead of the vote.

"The government is not in control of the security situation and political leaders quarrel over power," said Alaa Hussain, a former military officer.

"Maliki is not a superman and he cannot take control over the security of the country unless there is cooperation and union between the parties and politicians."

Bloody days

Many residents in Baghdad see a hazy connection between political disputes in parliament and violence in the streets. Politicians are currently at loggerheads over a law that will stipulate how the January election is run.

"The return of these large-scale bombings is because of the proximity of elections," said Haider Mohammed, a 34-year-old shop owner. "Haggling between the parties, if they differ on an issue, is reflected in the security situation," he said.

Iraq's parliament has so far failed to resolve a dispute over how to conduct the vote in the city of Kirkuk, disputed between Arabs and ethnic Kurds.

The impasse has cast doubt over whether the Jan. 16 date is feasible and raised questions about whether politicians can make tough decisions for a nation emerging from decades of strife.

But Iraq is a far cry from the dark days of sectarian carnage that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The government says its doors are open for business and it is starting to sign multibillion dollar deals with global oil firms.

Security remains fragile, and officials fear attacks like those on Sunday or the bombings of the finance and foreign ministries in August are aimed at re-igniting sectarian war.

"(Sunday's) bloody bombing was a definite message for Maliki's government. Stop bragging about achieving security," said Thamir al-Ani, 35, a government employee.

The Aug. 19 "Bloody Wednesday" bombings and the attack on Sunday raised doubts about Iraqi forces' ability to take over security from U.S. soldiers who pulled out of Iraqi city centres in June ahead of their complete withdrawal in 2011.

"We were talking about bloody Wednesday. Now we'll talk about bloody Sunday. I am afraid with the continuation of these bombings all our days will be bloody," political analyst Haider al-Mulla said.

Date created : 2009-10-26

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