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Middle east

Dozens killed as bombs strike heart of Baghdad

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-05

Bombings in central Baghdad, including three near the heavily fortified Green Zone and the foreign ministry, killed at least 33 people Wednesday as the death toll from Iraq's worst upsurge in violence in six years continues to climb.

The attacks came as security forces also struggle to battle al Qaeda-linked militants in the western province of Anbar, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a powerful jihadist group that is also active in neighbouring Syria.

Wednesday's deadly attack struck during morning rush hour, ripping through areas of the capital bordering the Green Zone – home to the parliament, the prime minister's residence and the US and British embassies. Three explosions killed 25 people and wounded another 35, security officials and a medical source said.

One attack was just opposite the foreign ministry. Two security officials said the blast was caused by a car bomb, but witnesses said a suicide bomber was responsible.

Another suicide bomber targeted a restaurant while a vehicle rigged with explosives was detonated in a market.

Later in the afternoon, three car bombs in southeast Baghdad killed eight people and left 32 more wounded, while a rocket attack on Haifa Street in the centre of the capital wounded five.

With violence at its highest level since 2008, diplomats have urged the Shiite-led government to reach out to Sunnis in order to undercut support for militancy, but Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has taken a hard line ahead of April's parliamentary elections.

More than 1,000 people were killed last month, according to government data, as security forces have struggled to curb bombings and battle jihadists and other anti-government fighters who have seized areas of Anbar province.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but Sunni militant groups, including ISIL, have taken credit in the past for similar attacks in Baghdad.

Unrest in Anbar Province

ISIL has also been fighting security forces in Anbar province, a mostly Sunni desert region bordering Syria where, for weeks, militants have held parts of Ramadi and all of Fallujah, which lies on Baghdad's doorstep.

Along with ISIL, other militant groups and anti-government tribes have fought forces loyal to the central government.

Security forces and pro-government tribal fighters have made slow progress in Ramadi after days of heavy clashes, and by late Tuesday had retaken several neighbourhoods from militants, according to officers and an AFP journalist.

In Fallujah, however, security forces have largely stayed out of the city in recent weeks fearing major incursions could ignite a drawn-out campaign with high civilian casualties and heavy damage to property.

The city was a bastion of the Sunni insurgency following the 2003 US-led invasion, and American troops there fought some of the costliest battles since the Vietnam War.

The stand-off in Anbar has prompted more than 140,000 people to flee their homes, the UN refugee agency said, describing it as the worst displacement in Iraq since the peak of the sectarian fighting.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


Date created : 2014-02-05

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