Nearly 100 people died and at least 300 others were injured Monday in a series of attacks that crisscrossed Iraq, targeting security forces, factory workers, and shoppers on what authorities called the deadliest day of the year.
The violence – a combination of explosions and drive-by shootings at checkpoints – occurred against a backdrop of political stagnation since the March parliamentary elections, which pitted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against secular rival Ayad Allawi in a race so close that the outcome is still disputed.
The political stalemate has given rise to fears of renewed sectarian violence, a potential hindrance to the full withdrawal of US forces as scheduled for the end of next year. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Politicans' call for interim monitoring system gains traction
With a steady stream of bombings and security leadership in flux, some Iraqi politicians have called for the formation of an interim monitoring system until a new parliament is seated. That idea appeared to gain traction Monday, as the death toll rose throughout the day with bombings in Baghdad as well as the mainly Shiite Muslim south and Sunni Muslim west.
"The parliament is in limbo, so who is there to call the government to account and demand to know why security is slipping?" Tania Talaat, a Kurdish lawmaker, told the Sharqiya satellite TV channel Monday. "It's because there's no one to monitor their performance. The security forces should not be affected by the political atmosphere and the tensions between the political rivals."
Baghdad, southern provinces hardest hit
While violence erupted in practically every region of Iraq, Baghdad and southern provinces were the hardest hit.
Baghdad authorities recorded seven separate drive-by shootings at Iraqi army and police checkpoints throughout the capital, beginning at sunrise and ending with at least seven security forces dead and another 17 wounded. Also, three roadside bombs struck other checkpoints and a patrol, resulting in more casualties.
A car bomb in the populous southern port city of Basra on Monday evening left more than 60 people killed or wounded, with casualty figures uncertain. An hour later, at about 7 p.m. just north of Basra, another bomb exploded in a busy electronics market, local authorities said. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Also in the south, an explosion ripped through the main marketplace in the town of Swaira in Wasit province before noon, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 80, local police said.
In the nearby Babil province, two car bombs exploded outside a textile factory at the afternoon shift change, when the area was packed with workers and their taxis or minibuses, witnesses and authorities said. When paramedics and bystanders tried to rescue victims of the twin blasts, a third explosion detonated.
(Issa is a McClatchy special correspondent. Hannah Allam contributed to this article from Cairo.)
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