Last updated: 21 July, 2013

Central Baghdad bombing kills at least 3

Violence in Iraq killed 18 people on Sunday, as ordinary Iraqis poured scorn on the authorities for failing to stem a weekend of unrest that cost dozens of lives.

More than 540 people have been killed so far this month and over 2,800 since January 1, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.

In the deadliest incident on Sunday, gunmen attacked a checkpoint in the Zab area of Kirkuk province in northern Iraq, killing five members of an Arab unit of the peshmerga security forces, officials said.

Members of the peshmerga, the security forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, are overwhelmingly ethnic Kurds.

Gunmen also killed four people — a soldier, a five-year-old child and two others — who were swimming in a river in the Sharqat area north of Baghdad.

It was the third attack targeting a swimming area in seven days.

In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen killed two policemen in an attack on a checkpoint, while two roadside bombs exploded near an army base in Taji, north of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding at least 10.

Another roadside bomb killed two police and wounded two more in the town of Al-Wajihiyah, also north of Baghdad, and a bomb exploded in the garden of a house in Besmayah, southeast of the capital, killing two people and wounding four, all from the same family.

The blasts came a day after Baghdad was hit by 12 car bombs, a roadside bomb and a shooting, while another bomb blew up south of the capital. A total of 67 people were killed.

Attacks elsewhere killed another three people on Saturday.

The Baghdad attacks struck as residents turned out to shop and relax in cafes after iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

On Sunday, ordinary Iraqis sharply criticised the authorities for failing to prevent the bloodshed.

“This is a cartoon government and its security forces cannot protect themselves, let alone protect the people,” a man said near the site of one bombing in central Baghdad.

In Tobchi, a north Baghdad area hit in the Saturday attacks, another man resorted to sarcasm.

“These car bombs come to us from Mars, because the security forces are implementing strict regulations to prevent their entry here,” he said.

A third slammed the aloof attitude of the political elite, who rarely comment on the spiralling violence.

“Iraqis are being protected only by God, because the politicians only care about their positions and personal interests,” he said.

In the first 12 days of Ramadan, more than 340 people have been killed in violence across Iraq.

And with 10 days still to go, July is already the second-deadliest month of 2013 with a death toll significantly higher than those of January and February combined.

“The holy month of Ramadan should be a time for spirituality and forgiveness, instead of increasing violence and division,” UN Iraq envoy Martin Kobler said in a statement.

“I call on all Iraqis not to let violence prevail and to work together toward peace and dialogue, the only sustainable solution,” he said.

Iraq has faced years of attacks by militants, but analysts say widespread discontent among members of its Sunni minority that the government has failed to address has fuelled the surge in unrest.

In May, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a shake-up of senior security officers, but the violence has continued unabated.

Iraqi Sunnis accuse the Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting their community, including via unwarranted arrests and terrorism charges.

Protests broke out in Sunni-majority areas at the end of 2012 and are still ongoing.

On April 23, security forces moved against protesters near the town of Hawijah in the north, sparking clashes that killed 53 people and sending tensions soaring.

More than 450 people have been killed each month from April to the present.

In addition to security problems, the government in Baghdad is also failing to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, and corruption is widespread.

Political squabbling has paralysed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.