A series of explosions and attacks hit cities and towns across Iraq Monday, killing at least 63 people. It was the most violent day in the country in months.
Firefighters doused the smoldering wreckage of vehicles destroyed by several explosions in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf Monday. The explosions were part of a series of attacks across Iraq.
Iraqi army General Othman al Ghanami, who commands the central Euphrates military district, said that Monday's attacks did not come as a surprise:
He said that our intelligence led us to believe, after security briefings, that there would be widespread violence, especially since we're expecting [a pilgrimage] at the Imam Ali shrine which was no doubt a pretext for the explosions. He added that the developments can probably be attributed to al-Qaida elements present in the area.
Iraqi officials say back-to-back explosions in the southern town of Kut also left more than 30 dead and dozens wounded. A crowd of onlookers, along with rescue workers who arrived at the scene of the first explosion, were hit by the second, according to a local police commander:
He says that there was a double explosion, the first resulting from explosives placed in a vehicle near the scene, attracting a large crowd to see what happened, and those onlookers became victims of the second explosion.
Workers cleared the rubble from another explosion that damaged vehicles, homes and businesses in the Baghdad district of Zafaraniya. Several people were killed and more than several dozen were wounded.
In the north, police say multiple bombings in Diyala province killed at least eight people, while two separate blasts in Kirkuk killed one person and wounded 12 others.
Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, argues that the violence is a sign of tensions in the lead-up to the planned, U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at the end of this year:
He said that the perpetrators of these attacks appear to be trying to send a message that if U.S. troops withdraw [at the end of this year], they will try to make strategic gains [against the government]. He argues that if al-Qaida is involved in these attacks, the next question would be which regional country is manipulating the group.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani condemned Monday's attacks, claiming that they were the result of “political paralysis” and the “unwillingness of political leaders to sit down together to resolve their differences.”