At least 31 people were killed in a triple bomb attack in Baghdad on Monday. This is the latest incident in a series of attacks marking a surge in violence in the Iraqi capital. The attacks occurred in Baghdad’s Azamiyah neighborhood, a former hotbed of sectarian violence that has been relatively peaceful in recent months.
The first bomb damaged a bus carrying school girls, the AP reported.
Police said the first explosion damaged a minibus carrying young girls to school....
Abbas Fadhil said he was working in a nearby restaurant that was damaged in the blasts.
"I rushed to the site and saw several girl students trapped in a bus and screaming for help. We took the girls outside the bus and rushed them to the hospitals," he said.
Associated Press Television News video showed the minibus pocked with shrapnel marks with the floor soaked in blood. Girls' shoes were scattered about amid the wreckage.
The exact death toll resulting from the blasts has yet to be ascertained, the AP also reported, as “police officials giving the toll were unclear how many died in each blast.”
According to the AP, twin blasts occurred “during the morning rush hour in the Kasrah section of Azamiyah neighborhood in the northern part of the Iraqi capital.” After that a suicide bomber “blew himself up among police and civilians who rushed to help the wounded,” Reuters reported.
Both the timing and location of the bomb attacks are significant. Recently, Baghdad residents have noticed an increase in attacks during rush hour traffic, United Press International reported in October.
Baghdad residents told the Iraqi daily Azzaman they are seeing a correlation between commute times and the security situation as U.S. and Iraqi forces sealed several areas in the wake of a series of suicide car bombings.
"There is a direct link between traffic jams and security," said one commuter. "Congested streets in Baghdad are an indication of an upsurge in insecurity."
Moreover, the Kasrah section of the Azamiyah neighborhood may have been targeted by Al Qaeda, reports the BBC.
There are suspicions that the blasts were an al-Qaeda attempt to re-ignite sectarian conflict in Baghdad, says [a BBC] correspondent. Kasra adjoins the mainly-Sunni district of Adhamiya.
According to the AP, the Azamiyah neighborhood, which used to be a center of resistance to US forces and their Shiite allies, has been relatively peaceful in recent months. Sunnis local to the neighborhood abandoned theinsurgency to join Awakening Councils, established to provide securityalong with Iraqi soldiers and police.
Until 2007, Azamiyah – a Sunni neighborhood – was a hotbed of sectarian violence and therefore one of the earlier neighborhoods to be walled in to prevent sectarian attacks, reported the AP in April 2007.
U.S. soldiers are building a three-mile wall to protect a Sunni Arab enclave surrounded by Shiite neighborhoods in a Baghdad area "trapped in a spiral of sectarian violence and retaliation," the military said.
When the wall is finished, the minority Sunni community of Azamiyah, located on the eastern side of the Tigris River, will be completely gated, and traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will provide the only means to enter it, the military said....
It said the concrete wall, including barriers as tall as 12 feet, "is one of the centerpieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence" in Baghdad.
The suicide car bomber in Baquba, in Diyala province, struck a checkpoint staffed by a local Awakening Council militia.
Six militia members were killed and 14 civilians were wounded, police said.
The US military began transferring control of the Awakening Council militias to the Iraqis on 1 October and on Monday the government started paying the salaries of the Baghdad councils.
The Awakening Council militias, along with the increase in US troop numbers, are credited with the dramatic improvements in security in Iraq since the fierce sectarian violence of 2006-7.
Monday’s attacks are the latest incident in a series that indicates an upswing in violence in the Iraqi capital. Last week, daily bombings killed more than 30 people and wounded over 80, reported the AP.