Iraqi cities hit by deadly wave of violence

The aftermath of the twin blasts in Kut

A series of bomb attacks has hit several Iraqi cities, killing at least 60 people.

The worst attack took place in the south-eastern city of Kut where police said two near-simultaneous bombs killed at least 37 people.

The violence came as other attacks were reported in the country, including in Diyala province where 10 people died.

Two weeks ago, Iraqi leaders said there would be talks with the US over whether to keep some US forces in Iraq in 2012.

All US forces are due to leave the country by the end of the year, but Iraqi and US officials have expressed concern about the ability of Iraqi forces to protect the country.

Twin attacks

The blasts appeared to be co-ordinated to go off in the morning and included a combination of parked car bombs, roadside bombs and suicide bombers.

Analysis

Who exactly is behind the current violence remains unclear, but it serves a dual and contradictory purpose, at one and the same time highlighting the declining levels of security whilst warning those willing to countenance a continuing US presence of the trouble that might lie ahead if US forces stay on.

In this sense, the bombings are intended to drive a wedge between Washington and Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki. Agreeing in principle to discuss a long-term US presence is one thing, arriving at a deal is quite another.

Iraq probably has enough basic boots on the ground to provide for most of its own security needs. It does though need help in key areas like maritime security and the defence of its air space. US officials present the need for a presence in Iraq in geo-political terms - countering Iranian influence and offering reassurance to America's Gulf allies.

However, there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

The latest violence was quickly condemned by the speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi.

In Kut, which lies 150m (95 miles) south-east of Baghdad, the two bomb attacks - one a roadside bomb, the other a car bomb - injured at least 64 people, officials say.

The roadside bomb exploded in the centre of the city, then a car bomb detonated when security forces arrived on the scene, officials said.

"I was on my way to my shop in the market and suddenly I felt myself being thrown to the ground," Saadun Muftin, 26, told the AFP news agency, speaking from the city's Karama hospital.

Meanwhile, in Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, three policemen were killed and several more wounded when two men wearing vests packed with explosives attacked an Iraqi counter-terrorism unit.

Fake police

Security officials said they had worn police uniforms to enter the compound in a failed bid to free al-Qaeda prisoners.

Elsewhere:

A police officer inspects the wreck of a car bomb in Najaf The holy city of Najaf was among several targeted
  • In Diyala province, at least five blasts resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people
  • A suicide car bomber attacked a checkpoint outside a police building near the holy Shia city of Najaf, killing at least four people
  • Five or more bombs detonated in Baghdad while, north of the capital, a car bomb killed one person in Taji and at least 14 were injured by a blast in Balad
  • One person died as two explosions hit the northern city of Kirkuk and at least two people were killed by a bomb in Karbala
  • Blasts also struck Iskandiriyah, south of Baghdad, and Taji, north of the capital, where one person died

"Today's attacks were not a surprise," Baghdad security spokesman Maj Gen Qassim Atta told AFP, adding that several other attacks planned for Monday had been disrupted.

There has been a recent flurry of violence across Iraq, although it is much reduced since a peak in 2006-2007.

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