New suicide attacks in the central Iraqi city of Baquba have killed at least 31 people and injured dozens more today, days before the March 7 parliamentary elections. It is important to keep track of such violent events to save us from the belief that security in Iraq has vastly improved and life is rapidly returning to normal. In truth, violence by all sides is part of daily life in Iraq. The number of violent incidents may be fewer. The total casualty figures may be lower compared to the peak of the Iraqi civil war. However, as I have said in earlier postings quoting available information, bomb attacks in Iraq these days are bigger and more lethal. Casualties in each of these attacks are, in general, higher. It is by no means normalcy.
In the latest attacks, two car bombs exploded within minutes of each other near government buildings in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, 40 miles north of Baghdad. A third bomb devastated the city’s main hospital, where victims of the first attacks were being treated. Baquba is situated just outside the Sunni Triangle, a densely-populated region northwest of Baghdad, inhabited mostly by Sunni Arabs. Their power has consistently been eroded since the 2003 US-led invasion and overthrow of the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein.
Al Jazeera says that these bombings follow a warning by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, that he would disrupt the coming elections by military means. The rise of Shi’a power, next to Iran, concerns the United States.