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Iraq Sees Deadliest Month in Years

  • Henry Ridgwell

July was the deadliest month in Iraq since 2008, with around 1,000 people killed and many more wounded. The violence, escalating for months, is largely sectarian and analysts say is further fueled by a political deadlock in Baghdad and a spillover of al-Qaida from the conflict in Syria.

Firefighters tackle the smoking shell of a minibus caught in a bomb attack in the southern city of Basra. At least two people died in the attack Monday, part of a wave of 17 car bombs across Iraq that killed at least 55 people.

The attacks targeted Shi'ite settlements in the capital, Baghdad, and across the south of the country.

Karrar Faiz lost his young brother in this bomb attack in Basra.

"Does God or Mohammed approve such an act? Why? And until when we will continue to suffer," he asked.

The violence has affected most areas of Iraq. Twin car bombs struck the northern city of Kirkuk last week. Militants also carried out assaults on two prisons last month, releasing at least 500 inmates - including senior al-Qaida leaders.

Frustration over the lack of security is growing. Fawzi Abdul-Karim, an Iraqi journalist in Baghdad, said "explosions are continuing as bloodshed has swept across Iraq." And yet, he said, "regrettably, not one Iraqi official has tendered his resignation because of his failure."

The United Nations says 1,057 people were killed in July. It has called on Iraq's political leaders to take immediate and decisive action to stop what it called the "senseless bloodshed."

As the violence worsens, Iraq's politicians are deadlocked, says Professor Saad Jawad, formerly of the University of Baghdad and now at the London School of Economics.

"The political parties in Iraq are doing almost nothing," he said. "To the security situation, to the services for the people, to the political process, they are in constant conflict between each other.

"For the last four years we have been living with a Cabinet without a Minister of Defense, without a Minister of Interior," Jawad added. "And these are the two ministries that affect the security situation."

Jawad says al-Qaida fighters were largely defeated in Iraq by 2008. But the conflict in neighboring Syria has lured al-Qaida militants back to the region - and the violence is spilling over the border.

"Lately, they were pushed out by the Syrian army with the cooperation of Hezbollah and other Iranian elements or support," he said. "So they have nowhere else to go but to remove themselves from the area where they were defeated, into Iraq and Lebanon, and that's why you see the violence is increasing in these two countries."

Still, the level of violence is far from sectarian conflict that gripped the country in 2007, when the monthly death tolls often exceeded 3,000 people.