BAGHDAD — First came the fireball, then the screams of the victims. The suicide bombing just outside a Baghdad graveyard knocked Nasser Waleed Ali over and peppered his back with shrapnel.
Ali was one of the lucky ones. At least 51 died in the Oct. 5 attack, many of them Shiite pilgrims walking by on their way to a shrine. No one has claimed responsibility, but there is little doubt al-Qaida’s local franchise is to blame. Suicide bombers and car bombs are its calling cards, Shiite civilians among its favorite targets.
Al-Qaida has come roaring back in Iraq since U.S. troops left in late 2011 and now looks stronger than it has in years. The terror group has shown it is capable of carrying out mass-casualty attacks several times a month, driving the death toll in Iraq to the highest level in half a decade. It sees each attack as a way to cultivate an atmosphere of chaos that weakens the Shiite-led government’s authority.
Recent prison breaks have bolstered al-Qaida’s ranks, while feelings of Sunni marginalization and the chaos caused by the civil war in neighboring Syria are fueling its comeback.
“Nobody is able to control this situation,” said Ali, who watches over a Sunni graveyard that sprang up next to the hallowed Abu Hanifa mosque in 2006, when sectarian fighting threatened to engulf Iraq in all-out civil war.
String of attacks kills at least 42
A string of bombings Sunday across Iraq, many in Shiite-majority cities, killed at least 42 people and wounded dozens, officials said, a grim reminder of the government’s failure to stem the uptick in violence that is feeding sectarian tensions in the country.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attacks, but waves of bombings are frequently used by al-Qaida’s Iraq branch.
The Sunni militant group and other Sunni extremists often targets Shiite civilians in an effort to undermine the Shiite-led government. Al-Qaida’s extremist ideology considers Shiites heretics.
Medical officials confirmed the casualties. The police and hospital officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in Iraq since attacks began accelerating in April following a deadly security crackdown against a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija.
With today’s death toll, at least 267 people were killed so far in October.
— The Associated Press