Bomb carnage in Baghdad leaves 54 dead, 180 injured
Terror comes just days after US reveals it killed two senior al-Qa'ida leaders
DOZENS were massacred yesterday in bombings across Baghdad.
Terrorists targeting Shia Muslims killed at least 54 people and wounded 180, days after US and Iraqi officials said they had killed al-Qa'ida's two most senior leaders in the country.
Among the locations hit was an office of the Sadr Trend, the political group of anti-US Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, in the eastern district of Sadr City, state-owned al-Iraqiya television said.
The attacks, which included car bombs and improvised explosive devices, also took place in four other areas in the south, north and centre of the capital.
US and Iraqi forces said they killed al-Qa'ida's Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayoub al-Masri in a joint raid on their desert hideout on April 18.
Vice President Joe Biden said the operation was a milestone that "demonstrates the improved security, strength and capacity of Iraqi security forces" as the US prepares to withdraw combat units by the end of August.
Iraqi military spokesman Major General Qassim Atta yesterday disclosed the arrest in the capital six weeks ago of al-Qa'ida's Baghdad chief Manaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi. He said the detention had led to the capture and killing of scores of the group's leaders and fighters, including al-Baghdadi and al- Masri. He warned the group would probably seek reprisals.
Interior Minister Jawad Bolani late yesterday called on all remaining al-Qa'ida fighters to hand themselves in, promising them humane treatment and a fair trial, according to al-Iraqiya.
Iraq's biggest political parties continue to vie for the right to form the next government and name a new prime minister after parliamentary elections on March 7 delivered no clear winner.
Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie has said insurgents are trying to exploit the political vacuum.
One of the bombs yesterday went off in al-Amin, in the south of the capital, at a building used for prayer. The southern district of Dura, the northern area of al-Hurriya and al-Rahmaniya, in the centre, also were hit, al-Iraqiya said.
The broadcaster aired video of burned cars and buses, and crowds gathering around the victims lying in pools of blood.
Al-Qa'ida has targeted Shia areas and places of prayer before in a bid to inflame sectarian tensions between Iraq's Shia and Sunni Muslims. The violence yesterday bears the group's signature, Terry Pattar, coordinator of the Iraq Focus Group at IHS Consulting in London, said in an interview.
The recent killings and arrests of senior al-Qa'ida leaders suggest "the group is more dispersed and less centralised" than thought and does not seem to have disrupted "its operational capability," Pattar said.
"Its agendas and goals are clear, so it's easy for someone to step into those leadership roles," he said.
A wave of attacks earlier this month left about 100 people dead.
They included an April 3 assault on embassies in Baghdad that killed 30.
The violence so far this year hasn't reached the levels of 2006, when the country tipped toward civil war.
In commenting on the deaths of the al-Qa'ida members, Biden said that to consolidate security gains the next step for Iraqi leaders was to form "an inclusive and representative government".
No group won a majority of the 325 seats at stake in elections. Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's secular and Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc won 91 seats, two more than Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'ite State of Law group.
Iraq has the world's third-largest oil reserves. Crude oil for June delivery rose 46 cents, or 0.6pc, to $84.16 a barrel at 10.49am on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The June contract is down 0.6pc this week. Brent crude oil for June settlement increased 70 cents to $86.37 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.