By Anastasiya Baryshceva and Polina Chernitsa
Following audio warnings issued by Al Qaeda, 22 powerful explosions have hit civilian, military and police targets across Iraq, leaving 107 people dead and 216 injured. The heaviest death toll is in Taji, where at least 40 people are known to have died. A mortar shelling of a military base outside Baghdad is known to have killed 15 soldiers.
The Voice of Russia’s Iraq correspondent Mazen al-Shumari calls attention to the timing of this bombing campaign:
“The bombs struck during the holy month of Ramadan, when people are usually off their guard. They also come at a time when Iraq has to keep significant forces near its border with Syria. The terrorists have apparently taken advantage of these circumstances.”
Police officers say they see good coordination behind all these shellings, roadside explosions, car bombings and suicide attacks. No group, however, has so far claimed responsibility for the explosions.
Dr Vladimir Yevseyev of the Moscow-based International Security Centre offers a plausible explanation of this:
“Terrorists who employ this sort of tactic are usually affiliated to Al Qaeda. At the same time, they take orders from no one. Al Qaeda is a loose network which consists of independent self-organizing parts. The only uniting factors are its ideology and military tactics.”
Under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi state was dominated by followers of the Sunni branch of Islam. After the 2003 American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Shias took over as the dominant faction. This created tensions, which are now being seized upon by external forces:
Dr Yevseyev again:
“The Sunnis have developed serious grievances, including over a Shia Prime Minister who they believe is too close to Teheran. They have supporters abroad, mainly Saudi Arabia and Qatar. These Sunni-dominated powers would not be happy to see an Iraq which forms an alliance with Iran. Accordingly, they use their financial muscle to support Iraq’s Sunnis.”
Dr Gumer Isayev of the St Petersburg Middle East Studies Centre believes the growth of armed violence in Iraq is one of the consequences of the US invasion:
“When the Americans pulled out their military forces, they left a number of private security companies behind. These companies are protecting the export of Iraqi oil to Western countries. The rest, including security in Iraqi cities, is of no importance to Western powers. Be it in Syria or Iraq, they only spring into action when their fundamental interests come under threat. And this action, in turn, usually takes the form of forced regime change. Iraq, by the way, is an even more dramatic case than Syria. Armed violence in it has been raging unabated since 2003.”
This Monday brought Iraq its highest one-day death tolls since May 2011, when a bomb exploding outside Baghdad killed 110 people. In the four weeks before this Monday, Iraq lost more than 200 lives to terror attacks.