Attacks north of Baghdad have left 41 dead as the UN said more than 2,500 were killed in the past three months,highlighting concerns that Iraq is slipping back into all-out war.
Yesterday’s latest violence comes as the country grapples with months of protests among the Sunni Arab minority,tensions along a swathe of territory in northern Iraq,and a protracted political deadlock that has blocked key legislation.
Analysts have warned that the stalemate and tensions could continue until a general election due next year. Yesterday,a series of attacks in restive areas north of Baghdad left 41 people dead as new figures released by the UN mission in Iraq showed a dramatic surge in violence in recent months.
Most of the victims died when a suicide bomber set off his explosives-rigged vest in the middle of a packed funeral for an Iraqi soldier being held in a husseiniyah,or Shiite religious hall.
The 1900 GMT blast in the town of Muqdadiyah killed 23 people and wounded 27,a police colonel and a medic said.
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In nearby Baquba,capital of Diyala province,another bombing at a cafe in a Shiite neighbourhood killed 10 people and wounded 22. Earlier in the day,eight former Sunni militiamen were kidnapped from their homes north of Baghdad in pre-dawn raids by gunmen wearing military uniforms before being shot dead,assassination-style. The men were all former fighters in the Sahwa,a collection of Sunni tribal militias that turned against al-Qaeda and sided with the US military from late 2006 onwards,helping turn the tide of Iraq’s insurgency.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for yesterday’s violence,but Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda frequently target the Sahwa,whom they regard as traitors,and Shiite Muslims,whom they see as apostates.
The UN released new figures yesterday which showed that 761 people were killed — most of them civilians across the country in June,bringing the overall death toll for the past three months to 2,518. Figures compiled by AFP,meanwhile,showed the death toll from April through June was more than twice that of the first three months of the year.