42 attacks all across Iraq kill at least 89
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BAGHDAD -- A chilling series of fatal attacks across Iraq on Monday sent a disheartening message to the Iraq and U.S. governments: After hundreds of billions of dollars spent since the U.S. invasion in 2003, and tens of thousands of lives lost, insurgents remain a potent and perhaps resurging threat to Iraqis and the U.S. troops still in the country.
The 42 apparently coordinated attacks underscored the reality that few places in Iraq are safe. Ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal, the number of American troops killed this year has jumped.
Monday's strikes against civilians and security forces across the country made it the deadliest day of the year for Iraqis, and it came in many forms: suicide attacks, car bombs, homemade bombs and gunmen.
By sundown, when Iraqis broke their fast in observance of the holy month of Ramadan, the death toll had reached 89, including three suicide bombers, and an additional 315 people were wounded.
The widespread and lethal nature of the attacks -- compared with an average of 14 a day this year -- frightened many Iraqis because it suggested that radical Sunni insurgents, led by al-Qaida in Iraq may have regained the capacity for the kind of violence that plagued the country at the height of the sectarian war, in 2006 and 2007.
But it also demonstrated the multiple and simultaneous threats gripping the nation at this pivotal time, with Shiite militants being linked with the killing of U.S. troops and threatening more violence if they remain, and Iraq's forces clearly unable to preserve the peace.
"Our forces are supposed to have the intelligence capabilities to prevent these types of breaches," said Shawn Mohammed Taha, a Kurdish member of Parliament who serves on its security committee. "The fact is, the insurgents have acted like our security forces don't even exist."
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks Monday. But in a voice recording posted last week on a website for al-Qaida in Iraq, a spokesman said the terrorist group was preparing a wide-scale strike. "I promise you that we are on the right path," said spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani. "Thank God that we are doing very well here."
"Do not worry, the days of Zarqawi are going to return soon," he said, referring to Abu Musab Zarqawi, former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, who was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. "We have men who have divorced themselves from life and love death more than you love life, and killing is one of their wishes."
The attacks came just two weeks after Iraq's government agreed to formally negotiate with the United States about possibly leaving some troops in Iraq after year's end.
"The insurgents are able to attack anywhere and everywhere, and no one can really stop them," Mr. Taha said, adding that the United States has achieved little in trying to improve Iraq's own intelligence operation.
Still, one political analyst said he saw the attacks as a calculated bid to frighten Iraqis into asking U.S. forces to stay behind, because if they fully withdraw, al-Qaida in Iraq will have lost its rationale for existing. "If the Americans leave, al-Qaida will no longer have an excuse to operate throughout the country," said Baghdad University political science professor Hamid Fhadil. "Al-Qaida wants Americans to stay here so they will have Iraq as a battlefield to fight the Americans."
First Published August 16, 2011 12:00 am