Tuesday’s car bomb attacks in Baghdad were the third deadliest in Iraq’s capital this year. Assuming the death toll settles at 121 victims – the latest update from the Associated Press – then 1,243 Iraqis in Baghdad have been killed by car bombs, roadside bombs, and mortars so far in 2009.
A look at Baghdad does not give the full picture, of course. The south of Iraq is much more secure, while northern cities like Mosul and Kirkuk continue to see high rates of assassinations and bombings.
But security in Baghdad has been a top priority since the beginning of the war, and huge efforts were made by Iraqi and US forces in 2007 and 2008 to secure the city and clear out smaller cities and towns around Baghdad of mostly Sunni insurgents believed responsible for the majority of bomb attacks on civilians. Many referred to the effort as the “Battle for Baghdad.”
Tuesday’s coordinated attack, with massive bombs detonating near a court complex, a mosque, and a bank where some Finance Ministry officials work, was also the third deadliest since June 30, when the US gave full responsibility for security in Iraq’s cities to the government. An Interior Ministry spokesman blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq and loyalists of executed former President Saddam Hussein for the killings.
The capital city is a much safer place today than in the dark months of 2006 and 2007, when a sectarian civil war saw whole neighborhoods cleansed of either their Sunni or Shiite inhabitants.
94,500 civilians killed in war
Iraq Body Count, a website that tracks civilian deaths in Iraq using media reports, says a minimum of 94,500 civilians have died during the course of the war. The website says that deaths from car bombs and suicide attacks averaged 16 a day in 2006, peaked at 21 a day in 2007, and have since been declining. The daily average for 2009 so far, which does not include today’s attack, is 8 deaths from such attacks.
But while lower than the last two years, the total number of dead from car bomb attacks this year is a reminder of how unsettled the new Iraq remains. Sectarian tensions are still bubbling along beneath the surface, one reason parliamentary elections have been pushed back to March of 2010, violating a provision in the country’s constitution that required them to be held by January.
Sons of Iraq growing restive
The former Sunni insurgents known as the “Sons of Iraq” who, attendant with 2007’s US troop surge into Iraq, were paid to fight alongside the US rather than against it, have also been growing restive. Their salaries have been slashed since the Shiite-dominated central government took responsibility for them from the US in January.
In all, Baghdad has had 17 bomb attacks this year with at least 10 casualties. The deadliest was on Oct. 25, when coordinated truck bombs killed 145 people and largely destroyed the Justice, Labor, and Finance ministries. At least two of Tuesday’s targets were locations were Justice and Finance Ministry employees had set up temporary offices since the destruction of those buildings.
Researcher Leigh Montgomery contributed to this report.