A wave of car bombs exploded in the commercial streets of Iraq's capital Tuesday evening, part of a series of attacks across the country that has left 33 dead. Meanwhile, Sunni leaders in Basra said unknown gunmen had shot 17 Sunnis dead in the Shiite-dominated city over the past two weeks, following threats to fight back against them for attacks on Shiites in other parts of Iraq.
According to the AP, the car bomb attacks (blamed on hardline Sunnis attempting to weaken confidence in the Shiite-led government, alongside revenge killings by Shiites) are evocative of the cycle of violence that almost caused civil war in the country some years ago. The current upsurge of violence is in its fifth month — though overall death tolls are still lower than at the height of the conflict that took place in 2004-2008.
The first car bomb detonated in the northeastern suburb of Husseiniya in the late afternoon, killing five and wounding 14 others. Six other blasts took place thereafter, killing 21 and wounding 126 in central Baghdad, western Baghdad, and a commercial street in the capital's southeast.
Abdul-Karim al-Khazrachi, who leads the Sunni Endowment that oversees holy sites in Basra, said in a statement issued late Monday that the sect had decided to close down its mosques due to "grave security deterioration and the continuation of the sectarian killings."
Khazrachi said that the killings were preceded by threats vowing revenge for insurgent attacks against Shiites throughout Iraq. The letters, at least some of which came with bullets in the envelopes, demanded Sunnis leave the province.
Khazrachi said he didn't know the killers' identities, and that the victims included clerics, worshippers and others.
Other violence in the country includes a foiled attack in the western city of Fallujah that ended in security killing four attackers, who were attempting to besiege a police station. Two policemen were also killed. In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen stopped a minibus carrying soldiers to their base and killed six with shots in the head, according to police.