March 19, 2013

Deadly Iraq blasts kill 56, mark 10 yrs since US invasion

A wave of bombings tore through Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 56 people and wounding more than 200, highlighting increasing sectarian tensions in Iraq on the eve of the anniversary of the US-led invasion.

The attacks, mostly by car bombs, targeted small restaurants, day labourers and bus stops in the Iraqi capital and nearby towns over a span of more than two hours.

The bombings came 10 years to the day that Washington announced the start of the invasion on March 19, 2003 though by that time it was already the following morning in Iraq.

While violence has ebbed since its peak in 2006 and 2007, the latest attacks show that insurgents remain a potent threat to Iraq's security forces and long-term stability.

One of the deadliest of today's attacks struck close to one of the main gates to the heavily-fortified Green Zone, which houses major government offices and the embassies of several countries, including the United States and Britain. That blast outside a restaurant killed six people, including two soldiers, and wounded more than 15. Thick black smoke could be seen rising from the area as ambulances raced to the scene.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for today's blasts, but the attacks bore hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq. The terror group favours spectacular, coordinated bombings intended to undermine public confidence in the Shiite-led government.

Police and hospital officials who provided accounts of the days' bloodshed reported the most casualties from a car bombing near the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Baghdad's eastern Qahira neighbourhood at around 10 am. That blast killed seven people and wounded 21.

The officials provide casualty numbers on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release the information to journalists.

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