Northern Iraq bomb follows a deadly Iraqi weekend
A bomb killed eight people near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul today following a deadly weekend that raised concerns that sectarian tensions are on the rise once again.
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The blast struck a housing development for displaced Iraqis outside of the ethnically- and religiously-mixed city of Mosul. More than 140 people have died in attacks across Iraq since the last US forces left Iraq on Dec. 18, raising concerns that Iraq may be facing a sectarian conflict as Sunni insurgents challenge the Shiite-dominated government.
“Ordinary Iraqis say the violence is largely sectarian, with the once-dominant Sunni Muslims believing Shiites are responsible, and the majority Shiites saying it is the work of Sunni insurgents,” writes CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq. “Each group believes it is being targeted by the other.”
Monday’s attack targeted displaced members of the Shabak minority group, reports Al Jazeera. The group is of Kurdish origins and follows a mix of Shiite Islam and local beliefs. The group has also expressed an interest in becoming part of an independent Kurdistan. The Shabak community faced persecution during the rule of Saddam Hussein and was subject to numerous attacks after the US-led invasion.
Prior to Monday’s bombing, Iraq saw much bloodshed over the weekend with attacks on both Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, insurgents launched a coordinated attack against a jail in Ramadi, west of Baghdad in an attempt to free terror suspects. The battle left at least 18 people dead, including the attackers, reports The Wall Street Journal. On Saturday, more than 50 Shiite pilgrims were killed in the southern city of Basra.
“The government must be careful in the coming days because the political problems are being reflected on the ground,” said Sadoon Abed, a high-ranking member of the Ramadi provincial council in a New York Times article. “Al Qaeda wants to return to show that they still have the power to carry out such attacks. We fear the return of the sectarian war.”
The political situation has been particularly tense since Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and accused him of running death squads, reports the Associated Press. The move reignited sectarian tensions and has thrown the central government into deep turmoil. There are mounting concerns that the country could be headed toward the type of sectarian violence that peaked in 2006 and 2007, a civil war that left tens of thousands of civilians dead.
“All these attacks happened because of the political problems in the country and the corruption that spread inside the body of the security agencies and the judicial systems,” said Hammed al-Hies, a leading sheik in Western Iraq who told the Washington Post he blamed attacks such as those in recent days on Iraq’s larger political problems.