YASIR GHAZI & ROD NORDLAND
In a co-ordinated display intended to show they remain a viable force,Iraqi insurgents launched at least 40 separate attacks on Monday morning,setting off car bombs,storming a military base and ambushing checkpoints,Iraqi authorities said.
It was the single bloodiest day this year,with at least 112 people killed and more than 300 wounded in preliminary totals,according to local Iraqi officials in the many areas where attacks took place. The toll could rise still further as reports of further strikes continued to come in from provinces in northern and central Iraq well into the afternoon.
One day earlier,the attacks had been predicted in an audio message attributed to the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq,Abu Bakir Al Baghdadi,and posted on the groups website. The message promised that a new offensive,which it called Breaking Down Walls,would begin soon.
In sheer number of attacks,the offensive was without precedent this year and was sure to raise concerns about the governments ability to contain the violence six months after the last American troops left the country.
I think al Qaeda in Iraq made a big joke of the government and the Iraqi security forces, said Khalid Fadel,a military analyst. They were so clear that they were going to launch attacks during Ramzan,the government said they had information of about 30 terrorist groups entering the country,but still the security forces were unable to prevent the attacks.
Baghdadi said in the Qaeda statement that we are returning again to dominate territories we used to dominate,as well as more. He depicted the attacks as part of a battle launched by Sunnis against the countrys Shiite leaders and people.
The first attack came about 5 am on Monday when gunmen stormed onto an Iraqi military base near the town of Duluiyah in Salahuddin Province and killed 15 Iraqi soldiers,according to security officials. Four soldiers,including a high-ranking officer,were wounded,and a fifth was taken prisoner by the insurgents,who escaped with him.
Then,in steady succession,mostly between 6 and 10 am local time,car bombs were set off at places from Taji and Husseiniya north of Baghdad,to Sadr City in eastern Baghdad,and Tuz in western Salahuddin province,Dujail in southern Salhuddin,and Balad,northeast of the capital,according to accounts from local police,hospital and Iraqi Army officials. They also struck in Mosul and Kirkuk in the north,and Diwaniyah province in the south.
Eight attacks were launched in Kirkuk province in the north,mostly targeting police patrols,with five persons killed and 42 wounded.
The offensive was launched on the third day of the Ramzan holy month,and apparently took advantage of the widespread practice in Iraq and many other Muslim countries of staying up most of the night,and then sleeping late during daytime when fasting is required.
The attacks were likely to continue the trend of the first six months since the departure of American troops,when violence has steadily increased,according to United Nations statistics.