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Bomb attacks in Iraq kill 49

19 February, 2014

BAGHDAD/HILLA: Bombs exploded in predominantly Shia Muslim districts of the Iraqi capital and in the southern city of Hilla on Tuesday, killing at least 49 people, police and hospital sources said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, but Shi'ites are a target for Sunni Islamist insurgents who have been regaining ground in Iraq over the past year and overran several towns in recent weeks.

Hilla police chief, Major General Abbas Abid, blamed groups linked to al Qaeda.

"Al Qaeda terrorist groups stand behind today's attacks in Hilla to confuse the security forces and cause high casualties among civilians," he said. "They are criminals and they never get enough of innocent blood".

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has appealed for international support and weapons to fight Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, but critics say his own policies are at least partly to blame for reviving an insurgency that climaxed in 2006-07.

Many in Iraq's once-dominant Sunni minority deeply resent Maliki and feel they have been sidelined in the Shia-led political order that took shape following the US-led invasion in 2003. Some fellow Shias also accuse Maliki of abusing his power. Powerful Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who withdrew from politics at the weekend, said Iraq was governed by "wolves thirsty for blood and money".

"Politics has become a door for injustice and recklessness, despotism and abuse, so that a dictator and tyrant can take over and seize control in order to plunder money, break necks, fight cities and divide sects."

Sadr, who led revolts against US forces in Iraq before their pullout and went on to become a major influence in the government, said he had decided to retire in order to distance himself from a "failed, corrupt and unjust government".

"Whenever a Shia, Sunni or Kurd objects to them, they accuse him of sectarianism or being a terrorist". In Tuesday's attacks, 35 people were killed in seven car bomb explosions inside Hilla, 100 km south of Baghdad, and the nearby towns of Haswa, Mahaweel and Mussayab. At least 90 people were wounded.

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