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Baghdad bombings show Al Qaeda in Iraq still intent on sectarian violence

Although Iraqi and US officials say they've severely damaged Al Qaeda in Iraq, a series of new Baghdad bombings reveals the organization may be weaker but is still trying to spark tension between Sunnis and Shiites.

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Bombings defied tight security

Security around the Sadr office and in most of the teeming neighborhood is overseen by Sadr loyalists rather than Iraqi security forces and is normally extremely tight, but Abu Zahra said there was an unusually large number of unknown people there to attend a wake.

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The other bombings were all aimed at Shiite mosques elsewhere in Baghdad or in mixed neighborhoods.

A parked car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in the Hurriyah neighborhood, a formerly mixed area of Baghdad that became predominantly Shiite after sectarian violence in 2006-07. Security officials said five civilians were killed and 14 others injured when the car exploded near the Abdul Hadi al-Chalabi Mosque.

In the al-Amin neighborhood, a car bomb and roadside bomb exploded near the Muhsin al-Ameen Mosque, killing eight people and wounding 23 others.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, a roadside bomb near the al-Sadrain Mosque in Zafaraniyah injured six people and two other explosions in the mixed neighborhoods of Dora and Rahmianiya wounded 13 people.

Earlier on Friday, in Anbar Province, five houses including the homes of a lawyer and a police officer were bombed in the town of Khalidiya, near Ramadi.

An Iraqi police officer was killed after storming one of the houses that exploded.

Al Qaeda in Iraq strikes back

Iraqi officials blamed the attacks on Al Qaeda in Iraq hitting back after a series of arrests and killings of its members, which have resulted in the deaths of two top Al Qaeda leaders and the dismantling of large parts of its network.

Attacks by the organization have been aimed at resparking sectarian violence that plunged the country into civil war four years ago. Sadr officials said Iraqi security forces also shared the blame in not preventing the attacks, and demanded an investigation.

“The powers of darkness – criminal Baathists and Qaeda affiliates – will spare no effort to sow the seeds of division in the Iraqi society,” says former Sadr member of parliament Faleh Hassen Shenshel. “It is obvious – bombs and explosions in neighborhoods that are mostly populated by one sect in an attempt to provoke sectarian feelings and prejudice.”

“Even if this despicable act is Al Qaeda reacting to the killings and arrests of the past few days that targeted its leaders, they still couldn’t have accomplished it without cooperation from some elements in the security forces,” he says.

Sahar Issa and Mohammad al-Dulaimi contributed reporting.