Baghdad bombings ‘revenge’ attacks

 A series of bombings mainly
targeting Shiite worshippers killed at least 69 people on Friday, officials
said, just days after U.S. and Iraqi forces killed the top two al-Qaida leaders
in Iraq in what was described as a devastating blow to the insurgency.

The apparently coordinated attack,
which occurred in a two-hour time span, demonstrated insurgents remain a potent
force despite U.S. and Iraqi claims that the terror network is on the run.

Officials have warned insurgents
remain capable of staging high-profile bombings in a bid to re-ignite sectarian
tensions that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

Extremists are also seeking to
exploit political deadlock after the inconclusive 7 March parliamentary
election as U.S. forces prepare to go withdraw from the country by the end of
2011.

At least 10 car bombs and roadside
attacks struck the capital, according to Iraqi police. No suicide bombings _ an
al-Qaida trademark _ were reported but Iraqi authorities were quick to blame
the Sunni-led terror network, which frequently targets Shiites.

The deadliest attack took place
near the Baghdad headquarters of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the
vast slum of Sadr City as Friday prayers were ending.

At least two car bombs exploded a
few hundred yards from the compound, ripping through the area as men were
kneeling on prayer mats in the street outside the mosque, according to police
and witnesses.

As people fled the scene, at least
two more bombs exploded in a parking lot where many had left their vehicles.

At least 36 people were killed and
almost 200 wounded, according to hospital and police officials who spoke on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The violence began shortly after
the call to prayer resounded across the capital with two bombs exploding in the
mainly Shiite neighbourhood of Zafaraniyah, killing one person and wounding 12.

A car bomb later killed eight
people and wounded 19 near a Shiite mosque in the northern Hurriyah neighbourhood,
while another killed 14 and wounded 36 in the eastern neighbourhood of Amin
al-Thaniyah.

Three other people were killed in
scattered violence elsewhere in the capital.

Bombs also ripped through the
houses of Iraqi policemen in the former insurgent stronghold of Anbar province,
killing at least seven people, including a soldier trying to defuse one of the
devices, authorities said.

Nobody claimed responsibility for
Friday’s attacks, but Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military
spokesman, said the bombings were likely retaliation by al-Qaida for the loss
of its top two leaders on Sunday.

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