Wave of bombings kills scores in Baghdad
IRBIL, Iraq —Nearly two years after the U.S. troop withdrawal, Iraq is in the midst of a deepening security crisis as an al-Qaida affiliate wages a relentless campaign of attacks, sending the death toll soaring to its highest level since 2008.
In the latest violence, nine car bombs tore through markets and police checkpoints in Baghdad on Sunday, killing scores of people.
The bloody campaign has virtually erased the security gains made in the past five years. More than 5,300 Iraqis have been killed this year.
The attacks occurred just three days before Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is scheduled to arrive in Washington for meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. At the top of his agenda is a request for more U.S. help in the fight against the al-Qaida affiliate, whose scope has grown to encompass neighboring Syria as well.
“We need to increase the depth and width of our cooperation, to be more agile and reflect the seriousness of the situation in Iraq,” said Iraq's ambassador to Washington, Lukman Faily. “In our discussions, we will highlight the urgent need for the approval and quick delivery of military sales.”
At least 50 people died in the attacks on mostly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, according to an Interior Ministry official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name.
A suicide bomber plowed his car into a group of soldiers in the northern city of Mosul, killing 14, according to a police official.
More than 600 people have been killed in Iraq this month. Extraordinary bloodshed left 880 dead in September.
The surge in violence is largely, though not exclusively, because of attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, an outgrowth of al-Qaida in Iraq. The group is trying to undermine the Iraqi state through a relentless campaign of car bombings, assaults on security forces and assassinations.
ISIS has carried out several jailbreaks, freeing militants whom American and Iraqi forces worked for years to capture.
Iraq once looked as though it could be stabilizing. After a horrific sectarian war engulfed the country in 2006 and 2007, the United States sent a surge of troops and began enlisting Sunni fighters to turn against al-Qaida. When the U.S. military withdrew at the end of 2011, militant groups were on their heels and monthly civilian death tolls were in the dozens rather than the hundreds.
That period of relative safety lasted into 2012, then began to unravel as Syria's anti-government protest movement developed into a civil war.