A series of bombings in the capital of Baghdad and in Anbar killed 67 Iraqis as officials said another top al Qaeda leader was captured in Anbar province. The strikes take place just days after al Qaeda’s top two leaders in Iraq were killed in a raid near Tikrit.
At least 13 bombs were detonated in the Iraqi capital; most were placed near mosques in Shia neighborhoods in the city. Fifty-eight Iraqis were reported killed in Baghdad.
The largest attack occurred outside the office of Iranian-backed cleric Muqtada al Sadr in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, Reuters reported. Three car bombs were detonated as worshipers left three nearby mosques after Friday prayers. The blasts outside Sadr’s office reportedly killed 44 Iraqis.
In Khalidiyah, just outside of Anbar’s provincial capital of Ramadi, nine Iraqis were killed and dozens more were wounded after bombs were detonated at the homes of a judge and police officers. Also, a home used as a bomb factory by al Qaeda fighters exploded, killing an unknown number of terrorists.
Today’s attacks in Baghdad are similar to the series of bombings that occurred on April 6 at several homes in Shia neighborhoods in the capital. Thirty-six Iraqis were killed in those strikes, which were carried out in an attempt to reignite the sectarian violence that had brought Iraq to the edge of civil war in 2006. Al Qaeda in Iraq has denied any responsibility for the April 6 attacks.
Al Qaeda in Iraq has conducted similar attacks in the past, however, in an attempt to stoke sectarian violence between minority Sunnis and majority Shia.
Al Qaeda in Iraq’s founder, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was killed in a US strike in June 2006, had insisted that al Qaeda’s best chance at destroying the Iraqi government and imposing an Islamic state was to fan the sectarian flames. Zarqawi made the argument to al Qaeda’s central leadership that the Shia must be viciously targeted, even if it meant a full-blown war against the Shia.
“I come back and again say that the only solution is for us to strike the religious, military and other cadres among the Shia with blow after blow until they bend to the Sunnis,” Zarqawi said in a letter to Osama bin Laden. The letter was written by Zarqawi in 2004 and intercepted by US intelligence.
Another top al Qaeda leader captured
The bombings in Baghdad today took place just five days after US and Iraqi forces killed al Qaeda in Iraq’s top two leaders, Abu Ayyub al Masri and Abu Omar al Baghdadi. Al Masri and Baghdadi were killed along with Baghdadi’s son and a top aide to al Masri during a joint US and Iraqi raid in the Thar Thar region just outside Tikrit. In the course of the raid, 16 other al Qaeda operatives were detained.
Two days after the death of al Masri and Baghdadi, al Qaeda’s military emir, or leader, for northern Iraq was killed during a raid outside Mosul. The al Qaeda military commander, identified as Ahmad Ali Abbas Dahir al Ubayd, was targeted based on intelligence gathered after the deaths of al Masri and Baghdadi.
Despite today’s deadly bombings in Baghdad and Khalidiyah, Iraqi security forces dealt another blow to al Qaeda’s leadership cadre. Iraqi forces captured the top military commander for Anbar province during a raid in Ramadi.
The al Qaeda military commander for Anbar was identified as Mahmoud Suleiman. He was captured in northern Ramadi and was wearing a suicide vest, which he failed to detonate, an Iraqi police official told Voices of Iraq.
The recent success against al Qaeda’s top leaders is attributed to raids in northern Iraq and in Baghdad over the past four months.
Since January, the US has picked apart the top leaders of al Qaeda’s northern network. Among those killed or captured are the last two overall leaders of the northern Iraq network, the last two emirs of Mosul, the top facilitator operating in the Iraq-Syria border areas, the top military commander, and other senior members of the network. Iraqi forces also captured al Qaeda’s emir of Baghdad. [See “Iraqi forces detained al Qaeda’s ‘Ruler of Baghdad’” for a list of the top al Qaeda leaders killed or captured since January.]
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