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Terrorism & Security

In first month after US exit, Iraq's sectarian clashes have killed 170

A series of bombings hit Baghdad today, killing 14. The violence in Iraq has claimed 170 lives already this year. 

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AP downplays concerns about the campaign devolving into a new phase of sectarian war, but notes that the attacks come at a politically fragile time in Iraq. The Shiite-led government is locked in a political battle with the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc, which boycotted the government after the highest-ranking Sunni official, Vice President Tareq al Hashemi, was charged with terrorism.

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Sunnis fear that without the American presence as a last-resort guarantor of a sectarian balance, the Shiite government will try to pick off their leaders one by one, as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki tries to cement his own grip on power.

Last week, the leader of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, Ayad Allawi, accused Maliki of unfairly targeting Sunni officials and deliberately triggering a political crisis that is tearing Iraq apart. Mr. Allawi, who is a Shiite, said Iraq needs a new prime minister or new elections to prevent the country from disintegrating along sectarian lines. 

Last week, Allawi accused Maliki of detaining more than 1,000 members of other political parties in the last several months, detaining many of them in secret locations, and of using torture to get confessions out of them, McClatchy reports. According to Allawi, 42 members of his party (The Iraqi National Accord) alone have been detained in the sweeps, which were initially meant only for Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

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