More than 60 people were killed yesterday in a wave of bombings across Baghdad as Iraq plunged towards unfettered sectarian conflict within days of the departure of American troops.
At least 15 separate blasts struck mostly Shia neighbourhoods of the city, though some Sunni areas were also hit. The attacks ranged from "sticky bombs" -- a bomb stuck to the side of a vehicle -- to fully loaded car bombs, some doubled up to ensure emergency crews were caught by the second blast, a common tactic of Sunni insurgents.
Officials said 65 people were confirmed dead and 179 injured, with the figures expected to rise.
Political leaders immediately connected the attacks to an angry breakdown this week in the relationship between Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister, and the country's most senior Sunni figures. Mr Maliki, whose Shia-led State of Law party is allied to a radical, anti-US and Iranian-influenced Shia group, on Monday demanded the arrest of Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice-president, accusing him of running a death squad during the height of the insurgency.
He also called for a vote of no confidence against Saleh al-Mutlaq, the Sunni deputy prime minister.
"The timing of these crimes and the places where they were carried out confirms to all the political nature of the targets," Mr Maliki said last night, suggesting they were a revenge attack and hinting they had political support.
The worst single incident was a suicide attack near a government anti-corruption office in which a stolen ambulance packed with explosives was detonated by its driver, sending debris into the grounds of a nearby kindergarten. Police said 23 people were killed, including five investigators from the office.
A string of three explosions killed 18 people at a construction site in central Baghdad.
Major General Qassim Atta, the Baghdad security spokesman, said: "They didn't target any vital institutions or security positions. They targeted children's schools, day workers, the anti-corruption agency."
William Hague, Britain's Foreign Secretary, condemned the "cowardly attacks".
"I hope that leaders from across the political and sectarian spectrum will pull together to establish a dialogue to ensure Iraq's political stability and build a stable future," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)