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Coordinated attacks in Baghdad kill at least 76

Iraqi women watch as the coffins of two slain priests are carried at a funeral in Baghdad on Tuesday. The priests were killed Sunday when gunmen stormed a church during mass. 

Associated Press

Iraqi women watch as the coffins of two slain priests are carried at a funeral in Baghdad on Tuesday. The priests were killed Sunday when gunmen stormed a church during mass. 

BAGHDAD — Militants unleashed a wave of deadly attacks in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 76 people in Shiite neighborhoods, authorities said, in an apparent bid to provoke a new sectarian war in the country.

At least 17 car bombs and other blasts shook the city at sunset in one of the bloodiest days this year. The coordinated attacks, which bore the hallmarks of the Sunni Arab militant group al-Qaida in Iraq, came just 48 hours after 58 people died when armed men seized the Our Lady of Salvation church.

The assailants used booby-trapped cars and a motorcycle, roadside bombs and mortars. Though 10 neighborhoods targeted were home to mostly Shiites, a couple of strikes hit Sunni communities as well. In addition to the 76 dead, 232 people were wounded, according to police and hospital officials.

The strikes were stunning in their scope, indicating a high degree of coordination and complexity from an insurgency that just a few months ago U.S. and Iraqi officials were saying was all but defeated.

"They say the situation is under the control. Where is their control?" said Hussein al-Saiedi, 26, a resident of Baghdad's sprawling Sadr City slum, where 21 people were killed when a parked car blew up near a market in Tuesday's deadliest bombing. "They murdered us today, and on Sunday they killed our brothers, the Christians."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called the string of blasts and the church siege crimes by terrorists and former members of the Baath Party against innocent civilians, designed to provoke sectarian strife and destabilize the government.

Iraq has been without a new government since the March 7 elections, leaving a political vacuum that many fear insurgents are trying to exploit.

Suspicion fell on al-Qaida.

"We do not have any conclusive information at this time as to the responsible parties, but this seems to be typical AQI (al-Qaida in Iraq) tactics," said Lt. Col. Eric Bloom, a U.S. military spokesman.

Fearing retribution for the attack, police on loudspeakers told people in the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah to stay home. In Sadr City, police ordered people to go home.

Tuesday's blasts came just hours after Christians gathered at a downtown church to mourn 58 people killed in an assault on a Sunday Mass. An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for that attack — the deadliest ever against Iraq's dwindling Christian community.

In a show of force, Iraqi security forces flooded the streets around the church. But as the security forces concentrated their efforts in the central Karradah neighborhood where the funeral took place, militants appeared to have spread out in a ring across the capital where the evening attack unfolded just hours later.

Information from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

Bomb-sniffing devices don't work

The Iraqi Interior Ministry inspector general, Aqeel Al Turaihi, recently determined that wands used by police as the frontline defense in the country's fight against bombs are worthless. U.S. military officials have been calling the devices a scam for years. The British government this year jailed Jim McCormick, chief of the British company ATSC, which manufactures the ADE-651 gadgets, on fraud charges, and banned ATSC from exporting more. The wands were supposed to detect explosives inside vehicles and prompt police to search them manually. When faced with the inspector general's findings, Interior Ministry officials shelved the report and quietly granted immunity to the official who signed the no-bid contracts worth at least $85 million. The only public mention of the finding was a small blurb in the report to Congress submitted by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction last week.

Audit questions U.S. goals

The Obama administration could be overstating what U.S. diplomats can do to contain Iraq's ethnic and sectarian tensions without U.S. military forces, an audit by the State Department's office of inspector general concluded Tuesday, raising fresh concerns about the planned pullout of American troops next year. The report also questioned whether American diplomats who remain behind will be adequately protected against insurgent violence, and faulted Washington for its planning of the transition from a U.S. military-led mission in Iraq to one run by American civilians in 2011. The report warned that the failure of Iraqi political leaders to form a unity government has interfered with the "urgent task" of planning for Washington's post-2011 diplomatic role.

Times wires

Bomb-sniffing devices don't work

The Iraqi Interior Ministry inspector general, Aqeel Al Turaihi, recently determined that wands used by police as the frontline defense in the country's fight against bombs are worthless. U.S. military officials have been calling the devices a scam for years. The British government this year jailed Jim McCormick, chief of the British company ATSC, which manufactures the ADE-651 gadgets, on fraud charges and banned ATSC from exporting more. The wands were supposed to detect explosives inside vehicles and prompt police to search them manually. When faced with the inspector general's findings, Interior Ministry officials shelved the report and quietly granted immunity to the official who signed the contracts worth at least $85 million. The only public mention of the finding was a blurb in the report to Congress submitted by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction last week.

Audit questions

U.S. goals

The Obama administration could be overstating what U.S. diplomats can do to contain Iraq's ethnic and sectarian tensions without U.S. military forces, an audit by the State Department's Office of Inspector General concluded Tuesday, raising fresh concerns about the planned pullout of American troops next year. The report also questioned whether American diplomats who remain behind will be adequately protected against insurgent violence and faulted Washington for its planning of the transition from a U.S. military-led mission in Iraq to one run by American civilians in 2011. The report warned that the failure of Iraqi political leaders to form a unity government has interfered with the "urgent task" of planning for Washington's post-2011 diplomatic role.

Times wires

Coordinated attacks in Baghdad kill at least 76 11/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 11:37pm]

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