The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

April 15, 2013

Iraq: String of attacks across country kills 32

BAGHDAD —  Insurgents launched what appeared to be a highly coordinated string of attacks across Iraq on Monday morning, killing at least 32 and wounding more than 200, according to officials.

The attacks, many involving car bombs, erupted less than a week before Iraqis in much of the country are scheduled to vote in the country's first elections since the 2011 U.S. troop withdrawal, testing security forces' ability to prevent bloodshed.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but coordinated attacks are a favorite tactic of al-Qaida's Iraq branch.

Iraqi officials believe the insurgent group is growing stronger and increasingly coordinating with allies fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad across the border. They say rising lawlessness on the Syria-Iraq frontier and cross-border cooperation with a Syrian group, the Nusra Front, has improved the militants' supply of weapons and foreign fighters.

Nearly all of the deadly attacks reported by police officials were bombings.

They were unusually broad in scope, striking not just Baghdad but also the western Sunni city of Fallujah, the ethnically contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk and towns in the predominantly Shiite south. Other attacks struck north of the capital, including the former al-Qaida stronghold of Baqouba and Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

The deadliest attacks were in Baghdad, where 15 people were killed. All occurred at around 9 a.m.

In the eastern suburbs of Kamaliya, a parked car bomb exploded in a bus station, killing four and wounding 13. Qassim Saad, an Arabic language teacher in an elementary school nearby, said his pupils began screaming as the explosion shattered windows and sparked panic.

He described a chaotic scene where security forces opened fire into the air upon arrival to disperse onlookers. Wooden carts carrying vegetables, fruit and other goods were overturned and stained with blood, and several nearby buildings and shops were damaged by the blast.

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