BAGHDAD — An al-Qaida in Iraq front group claimed responsibility Wednesday for bloody attacks that killed 65 people across the country a day earlier, underscoring the terror group's potency a decade after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
In a statement posted on a militant website, the Islamic State of Iraq said it unleashed the car bombs and other explosions to avenge the executions and "massacres" of convicted Sunni inmates held in Iraqi prisons.
It made no mention of the start of the war, but the claim of responsibility came 10 years after the U.S.-led war began March 20 with an airstrike in southern Baghdad in a failed attempt to kill Hussein. The dictator's eventual toppling quickly led to a breakdown of law and order, enabling the rise of al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgents as well as releasing sectarian, ethnic and class hatreds that had been suppressed by his iron-fisted rule.
Most of the nearly 20 attacks Tuesday targeted Shiite areas in Baghdad. In addition to those killed, more than 200 were wounded, officials said, demonstrating in stark terms how dangerously divided Iraq remains more than a year after American troops withdrew.
Iraqis showed little interest in marking the anniversary of the war that sparked years of bloodshed as Sunni and Shiite militants battled U.S. forces and each other, leaving nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqis dead. "Nobody cares about this anniversary. We don't even want to remember it because it was the beginning of a tragedy that bred even more tragedies. It's a painful anniversary because it rid us of Saddam but it brought us something even worse," said Hussein Kadhim, a Shiite employee at the Oil Ministry.
The violence continued Wednesday, when a car bomb exploded during rush hour in eastern Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding four.