BAGHDAD: At least 29 people were killed in attacks in Iraq Tuesday, most of them in seven car bombings in the capital, security and medical officials said – in the latest apparent attack by hard-line Sunni insurgents aiming to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government.
Meanwhile, Sunni leaders in Basra said unknown gunmen had shot dead 17 Sunnis in the Shiite-dominated city over the past two weeks, following threats to retaliate against them for attacks on Shiites in other parts of Iraq.
Sunnis in Basra were frequently targeted during the widespread 2004-2008 sectarian killings that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
Abdul-Karim al-Khazrachi, who leads the Sunni Endowment that oversees holy sites in the city, said in a statement issued late Monday that the sect had decided to close down its mosques due to “grave security deterioration and the continuation of the sectarian killings.”
Khazrachi told the Associated Press in a phone interview from Baghdad that the killings were preceded by threats – letters that came with bullets in the envelopes, and text messages – that vowed revenge for insurgent attacks against Shiites across Iraq. The letters demanded that Sunnis leave the province. He said he didn’t know the killers’ identities.
The slain, he added, included preachers, worshippers and others. The latest was a 70-year old grocer who was shot dead by gunmen while standing in his store Monday night. A police officer in the city confirmed the 17 killings, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to media.
Khazrachi said the mosque closure was intended to “protect the Sunnis in the province” but was “also a message to all those in charge of the security to shoulder their responsibilities.”
In Baghdad, meanwhile, a wave of car bombs hit commercial districts.
Seven car bombs struck various parts of the capital, including the center and the northeast, killing at least 21 people, mostly civilians, and wounding 87.
Earlier in the day, a provincial official was shot dead in the capital.
Near the main northern city of Mosul, gunmen ambushed a vehicle carrying unarmed policemen and raked it with machinegun fire, officials said.
Six policemen were killed in the attack and two seriously wounded.
A separate attack west of Mosul left a soldier dead.
In Fallujah, west of the capital, militants wearing explosive belts attacked a police station and traded fire with security forces.
Three of the bombers were killed when their explosives blew up while a fourth militant was shot by police, officials said, adding that 12 policemen were wounded, including two officers.