11 killed in 2 Iraq bombings
Two bomb blasts nearly 150 kilometers apart killed 11 people Monday night, officials said, as Iraq's death toll continued to climb in the second bloodiest month since U.S. troops withdrew late last year.
Officials and experts fear the surge in violence may signal Iraq's potential descent into a failed state, despite its oil wealth, billions of dollars in foreign aid and years of security assistance from the U.S.
"This is chaos," lamented Fadhil Mohammed, who was passing a youth football field in the city of Hillah when an approaching minibus exploded, killing six people. "Police are unable even to secure a popular field that has nothing to do with political parties."
A political crisis that has gripped Iraq since the day after the American military left in December has heightened sectarian tensions and potentially fueled some of the attacks. Another 26 people were wounded in the blast in Hillah, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.
Hillah is a mostly Shiite Muslim city just outside the so-called Triangle of Death, an area controlled by al-Qaida during the darkest days of the nation's bloodshed in the last decade. Police said a bomb was hidden on the minibus, which was carrying soccer players to evening games.
A medic at Hillah Public Hospital confirmed the casualties. An hour earlier, police said a bomb hidden in a plastic bag exploded outside a pet store in Baqouba, killing five people and wounding three. Among the wounded were two policemen who were standing beside their car, which was parked nearby, and were hit by the blast's aftershock.
Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, is the capital of Diyala province, one of the last areas in Iraq where al-Qaida and its allies remain a strong threat. The province, sandwiched between Baghdad and Iran, is divided among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds and has been a sectarian and ethnic flashpoint for years.
A Diyala health directorate confirmed the deaths. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. Together, the attacks bring Iraq's death toll for June to at least 175.
Only January suffered a higher casualty rate, with at least 255 killed in attacks that were widely seen as al-Qaida's attempt to shock the country immediately after the last American troops left. Violence has dropped dramatically in Iraq since the peak of the sectarian fighting in 2006-2008 that nearly brought the nation into civil war.
Experts believe the recent increase is the result of government divisions, weak Iraqi security and the absence of international forces, factors that that have emboldened militants.
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Labels: al-Qaeda in Iraq
, Iraq News
, Iraq Violence
, Iraq War
, Iraqi Police Force
, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki
, Suicide Bombers
, violence in Iraq Iraq backs off media outlets closure
Iraq has suspended orders to close 44 media operations in the country, including the BBC and Voice of America, after an outcry by press freedom advocates, an official said Tuesday.
The Communications and Media Commission that regulates the news media in Iraq will give the targeted organizations more time to pay outstanding fees and renew lapsed licenses, deputy director Ali Nasir said.
The commission denied that its previous order to close the agencies, most of them Iraqi, represented a crackdown on a free press. No media outlets were known to have been shut down. The order was issued last month but made public only this week.
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory welcomed the reprieve on Tuesday, but director Ziyad al-Aajely said media licensing is still too difficult and fees are too high. "The CMC's task and duty is to support media development, not to put hurdles on the way of the journalists," al-Aajely said Earlier, the group accused the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of trying to silence critics.
The dispute called into question the future of Iraq's fledgling democracy, nine years after the ouster of Saddam Hussein and six months after the last of the U.S. troops who overthrew him withdrew.
Nasir said Tuesday that five organizations, including the BBC and U.S.-funded Radio Sawa, are working with the media commission to settle licensing problems and pay fees, which he said amount to about $20,000 a year for radio stations.
Most of the other organizations on the list are Iraqi, including prominent broadcasters that criticized al-Maliki, but also Shiite religious programming that had no apparent political stance.
Some of the broadcasters targeted for closure are using frequencies that are either licensed to other stations or used by security forces, Nasir said. Voice of America said in a statement Monday that it was operating normally, adding that "this appears to be a regulatory matter concerning frequencies and licensing that is being discussed between local and federal officials in Iraq."
It said there is "no indication that this regulatory issue is being directed at VOA reporters in the field." Lala Najafova, a publicist for the BBC, said Sunday that the British broadcaster is working to renew its license. She said the delay is due to technicalities, and no BBC reporters have been restricted in their work.