Wave of bombings across Iraqi capital kills 69

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Baghdad, Dec 22: A wave of 16 bombings ripped across Baghdad today, killing at least 69 people in the worst violence in Iraq for months. The apparently coordinated attacks struck days after the last American forces left the country and in the midst of a major government crisis between Shiite and Sunni politicians that has sent sectarian tensions soaring.

The bombings may be linked more to the US iraq, bomb blastwithdrawal than the political crisis, but all together, the developments heighten fears of a new round of Shiite-Sunni sectarian bloodshed like the one a few years back that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the bombings bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaida's Sunni insurgents.

Most appeared to hit Shiite neighbourhoods, although some Sunni areas were also targeted. In all, 11 neighbourhoods were hit by either car bombs, roadside blasts or sticky bombs attached to cars. There was at least one suicide bombing and the blasts went off over several hours.

Coordinated campaigns such as this generally take weeks to plan, and could have been timed to coincide with the end of the American military presence in Iraq, possibly to undercut US claims that they are leaving behind a stable and safe Iraq.

Al-Qaeda has long sought to sow chaos and provoke the type of Shiite militant counterattacks that defined Iraq's insurgency. At least 14 blasts went off in the morning and there were two more in the evening. The deadliest attack was in the Karrada neighbourhood, where a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle blew himself up outside the office of a government agency fighting corruption.

AP

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