New Iraq attacks raise toll to 64

Yahya Barzanji and Qassim Abdul-Zahra / The Associated Press /

BAGHDAD — Three evening bombings and a shooting in and near Iraq’s capital have killed 20 people at the end of a deadly day of attacks around the country.

The latest violence brought Sunday’s death toll to 64, with more than 285 wounded.

Police said car bombs in three western Baghdad neighborhoods Sunday night left 15 dead and 47 wounded.

A few hours earlier, authorities said gunmen killed three security officers and wounded a fourth at a checkpoint in the town of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad. Two gunmen also were killed in the firefight, and a third was captured.

The casualties in all four cases were confirmed by police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release the information to reporters.

The violence highlighted militant attempts to sow havoc in the country and undermine the government.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but security forces are a frequent target of al-Qaida’s Iraq branch, which has vowed to reassert itself and take back areas it was forced from before U.S. troops withdrew from the country last year.

“What kind of life is this?” said Safeen Qadir, 26, a university student in Kirkuk. He described dead bodies and weeping, shouting relatives at bombing scenes in Kirkuk, where three midmorning explosions killed seven and wounded about 70.

“Because of the daily explosions, we must write our wills before go out of home,” Qadir said. “The death exists in every inch of the city of Kirkuk, and no one is spared from the crime of terrorism.”

In Sunday’s deadliest attack, gunmen stormed a small Iraqi Army outpost in the town of Dujail before dawn, killing at least 10 soldiers and wounding eight more, according to police and hospital officials in the nearby city of Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information to reporters.

Hours later, a car bomb struck a group of police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs with the state-run Northern Oil Co. outside the northern city of Kirkuk. City police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir, no relation to the university student, said seven recruits were killed and 17 wounded. He said all the recruits were Sunni Muslims and blamed the early morning attack on al-Qaida.

The carnage stretched into the country’s south, where bombs stuck to two parked cars exploded in the Shiite-dominated city of Nasiriyah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. The blasts were near the French consulate and a local hotel in the city, although the consulate did not appear to be a target of the attack.

Local deputy health director Dr. Adnan al-Musharifawi said two people were killed and three were wounded at the hotel, and one Iraqi policeman was wounded at the consulate. Al-Musharifawi said no French diplomats were among the casualties.

Absent VP given death sentence

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Sunni vice president, who has been accused of commanding sectarian death squads that are responsible for hundreds of killings, was sentenced to death in absentia on Sunday, hours after a wave of attacks killed more than 50 people across the country.

The sentencing of Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, could deepen an already intractable political crisis in Iraq among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, even as a spate of recent attacks has raised questions about the government’s ability to provide security nine months after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Al-Hashemi and his son-in-law were found guilty of murdering a lawyer and a security official, a charge small in scope in relation to the other accusations against him. In February, a panel of judges accused him of overseeing paramilitary death squads responsible for carrying out more than 150 attacks over six years against political opponents, security officials and religious pilgrims.

— New York Times News Service

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