An al-Qaeda affiliate has claimed responsibility for the series of attacks that killed nearly 80 people in Iraq this weekend. The attacks occurred when 12 separate car bombs were timed to target public celebrations of the Muslim Eid holiday (the end of Ramadan's month of fasting), and left hundreds of people wounded.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group that merged Syrian and Iraqi jihadist militant groups earlier this year, has taken to the internet to take credit for the attacks. These acts of violence, they claimed, were meant to act as a warning to the Iraqi government, which has been stepping up security measures and increasing arrests of suspected militants. In an online statement released Monday, ISIL threatened, "They will pay a high price for what they did, and they will not be secure day or night during Eid or other times."
This summer has seen a resurgence of violence in the region, with July's death toll in Iraq reaching the highest monthly point since 2008. Al-Qaeda groups across the Middle East have increased their visibility in recent months, with high-profile attacks in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.
The U.S. closed 20 embassies around the Middle East and Africa last week in response to an intercepted conversation between al-Qaeda leaders regarding a plot to target Americans and their allies, also in coordination with the Eid holiday.