WORLD NEWS TOMORROW Baghdad – In a coordinated display intended to show they remain a viable force, Iraqi insurgents staged at least 40 attacks throughout the country Monday, setting off car bombs, storming a military base, attacking policemen in their homes and ambushing checkpoints, authorities said.
At least 100 people were killed and more than 300 wounded in the single bloodiest day this year, according to Iraqi officials in the many areas where attacks took place.
The assaults, coming in the early days of Ramadan, the monthlong Muslim religious rite, were predicted Sunday in an audio message attributed to the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and posted on the group’s website. Al-Baghdadi pledged that a new offensive would soon begin.
The offensive was without precedent this year at least in the sheer number of attacks, spread over so many locations. It was sure to raise concerns about the government’s ability to contain the violence six months after the last U.S. troops left the country.
“I think al Qaeda in Iraq made a big joke of the government,” said Khalid Fadel, a military analyst and former instructor at the Iraqi Military College. “They were so clear that they were going to launch attacks during Ramadan … but still the security forces are unable to prevent the attacks.”
In the statement, Al-Baghdadi depicted the attacks as part of a battle started by Sunnis against the country’s Shiite leaders and people.
The first attack came at about 5 a.m. when gunmen stormed an Iraqi military base near Duluiya in Salahuddin province and killed 15 Iraqi soldiers, security officials said.
Then, in steady succession, car bombs exploded across the country, authorities said.
Insurgents also attacked the home of a police official in Balad, seriously wounding four family members, and ambushed a checkpoint near Baquba, killing one policeman. In all, 40 attacks were reported in at least six provinces.
Unusually, only one of the attacks was carried out by a suicide bomber, in Mosul, where police managed to shoot him before he could cause any fatalities, authorities said.
The offensive started on the third day of Ramadan, and apparently took advantage of the widespread practice in Iraq and many other Muslim countries of staying up most of the night, and then sleeping late during the daytime when fasting is required.
The attacks were likely to continue the trend of the first six months since the departure of U.S. troops, when violence has steadily increased, according to U.N. statistics. June was one of the deadliest months so far, with about 200 people, mostly civilian pilgrims, reported killed.
The anger of Iraqis at their own government was on frequent display, especially in the province of Diwaniya, where a car bomb exploded in a busy vegetable market, killing five people and wounding 32.
A crowd became incensed and started smashing police cars, then marched on government buildings in the area, leading police to fire on the crowd, killing one protester and wounding dozens of others, according to a police official.