Iraq rocked by more than a dozen explosions; at least 30 dead
BAGHDAD -- Coordinated explosions rocked Baghdad and other cities across Iraq on Thursday morning, killing at least 11 people in the capital and sparking fears of renewed instability and sectarian tension.
At least 13 attacks were reported, targeting day laborers, a social club, checkpoints, Shiite pilgrims from Iran and the Iraqi minister of health.
The minister of health was uninjured when a car bomb exploded as his motorcade passed through the center of Baghdad, killing two civilians and injuring nine others, including four of the minister's guards.
At least 30 people were killed and dozens injured in the attacks across the city and country, the Associated Press reported.
The bloodshed came after a period of relative stability and calm, which the Interior Ministry had attributed to a series of strikes against leaders of the Iraqi offshoot of Al Qaeda.
In the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kadhimiya, 14 Iranian Shiites were injured when a car bomb went off near a hotel used by pilgrims visiting a holy shrine. Car bombs and improvised explosive devices were also set off in Kirkuk, Mosul, Ramadi, Baquba and Samarra.
"The goal of these coordinated blasts is a message from the terrorist gangs that they are still alive and that they didn't lose the battle with the Iraqi security forces completely," the Interior Ministry said in a statement. "They want to communicate with their regional supporters to get financial aid after the funding sources dried up."
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but given the sophistication of their coordination it appears to bear the stamp of Al Qaeda.
The attacks drew sharp criticism of the country's security apparatus, with Maysoon Damalooji, spokeswoman for the Iraqiya political bloc, saying they reflected planning weakness. Parliament Speaker Usama Nujaifi demanded that leaders of the security forces bear responsibility.
Col. Dhiya Wakeel, spokesman for the Baghdad operations command, said on Iraqiya TV that the attacks were an attempt to derail a heightening sense of safety that the public has been feeling.
Despite such proclamations, Ali Haidari, a security expert, said there has been little real effort to enhance the country's security forces and procedures since the last series of major explosions. Rather than employ technology such as modern explosive detectors, authorities continue to rely on troops and checkpoints, he said.
The Interior Ministry acknowledged that there may still be gaps in the country's new security plan, which it appeared to blame on individuals.
"The delinquent will be punished strongly if their dereliction is proved," the ministry's statement said.
-- From a Times special correspondent
Photo: Iraqis inspect a car destroyed in a Baghdad car bombing Thursday. Credit: Ahmad Rubaye / AFP/Getty Images