BAGHDAD // Insurgents struck across Iraq yesterday in a series of coordinated attacks, hitting government targets in more than 10 cities and killing at least 50 people and wounding 250 others. Iraq's security forces bore the brunt of the violence, as police stations and army patrols were hit by suicide bombs and vehicles packed with explosives in at least 11 Iraqi cities, including Basra, Karbala, Baghdad, Ramadi and Falluja.
The scope and skill with which the assaults were carried out took Iraqi security forces by surprise, even though they were on a high state of alert after US combat forces completed their withdrawal on Tuesday. "We'd been expecting attacks but we did not expect something like this, this many attacks and this quality," a senior military official in Baghdad said. "There were so many different attacks, and they were well planned in order to hit us this hard."
The official said that Iraqi government forces had done their best to cope with the outbreak of violence and had managed to prevent some bombs from exploding, but the scope of the insurgents' offensive had overwhelmed them. In a sign of how perilous the security situation in Iraq has become, politicians and military officials accused mainstream political parties, still jockeying to form a government more than five months after elections, of being involved in the violence. Following most spates of violence in recent years, they have blamed only al Qa'eda.
"This is the political conflict taking place on the ground, and it is the Iraqi military and civilians who are the victims," the official said. Mohammad Iqbal, an MP in the Iraqi Accord Front, said the true extent of the deterioration in security was being hidden, with under-reporting of incidents. He too blamed mainstream political blocs, but declined to name those he believed were involved in the attacks.
"It's shameful that some parties, with their own militias or with connections to al Qa'eda, are trying to use violence to push their agendas and to pressure the political situation," he said. The Iraqi government and the US military, which still has 50,000 troops in the country, maintain that security is not getting worse. A US army spokesman, Major Gen Stephen Lanza, described yesterday's attacks as "desperate attempts" to undermine faith in the Iraqi security forces. "The concern obviously right now is the number that occurred today and the size of the area they occurred in," he said. "I think the concern is what al Qa'eda is trying to do is re-establish itself not only in Baghdad but in Iraq." Repeated official assurances that Iraq's security apparatus is up to the job of fighting insurgents are, increasingly, being met with public frustration. "We keep being told our forces are good enough, but we keep seeing evidence to the contrary," said Ala Allawi, an independent political analyst based near Kut, 160km south-east of Baghdad. Kut was the scene of yesterday's deadliest single incident, with at least 15 police officers, including the police chief, killed when a car bomb destroyed their station. As many as 87 people may have been wounded in the blast. Until this month Kut had never suffered a car bombing and was considered one of the safest cities in the country. "Al Qa'eda has shown once again that it can attack when and where it wants to," said Mr Allawi. "The security forces are not even able to protect themselves, let alone protect civilians. "People are afraid, the security forces are afraid, Iraqis are not feeling secure any more." In one of the assaults, in Buhriz, 60km north-east of Baghdad, police reported that gunmen raised an al Qa'eda in Iraq flag on a building after triggering a series of explosions. Although the death toll from yesterday's violence has not been finalised - early reports often vary wildly - what is clear is that this month will be one of the bloodiest Iraq has endured in years. If 50 people lost their lives yesterday, and some reports said the figure might be as high as 62 dead, it brings to more than 410 the number killed in insurgent violence since the beginning of August. email@example.com