BAGHDAD — A wave of bombings and shootings swept Iraq yesterday, killing at least 50 persons and raising fears that al Qaeda has begun a promised new offensive. The U.S. military acknowledged that violence was on the upswing and blamed it on the terrorist movement.
Also yesterday came the announcement that Iraqi and American troops raided the Iraqi military academy the previous day and arrested cadets and instructors purportedly linked to the kidnap-slaying of the former superintendent and the abduction of his replacement, who was later freed.
Police reported at least six car bombings across the country yesterday, an increase over the pattern of attacks in recent weeks, though U.S. officials insisted that violence was still below levels of last year.
Yesterday’s deadliest attack occurred when a suicide driver detonated an explosives-laden truck close to the home of a Sunni Arab tribal leader near Sinjar, 240 miles northwest of Baghdad.
Hospital Director Kifah Mohammed said 10 persons were killed and nine wounded, including the sheik. The sheik’s son, who worked as a government contractor, was killed, the director said. The U.S. military said the sheik had spoken out against al Qaeda.
Six civilians were killed and 28 were wounded when a pair of car bombs exploded in an outdoor market in Baghdad’s southwestern district of Baiyaa, police said. Shi’ite militias have driven thousands of Sunnis from Baiyaa this year.
In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a suicide car bomb struck a court building under construction, killing three persons and wounding about 30, police said.
In the south, a bomb exploded near the main gate of a Sunni mosque in the town of Abu al-Khaseeb, about 12 miles south of Basra, killing five worshippers and wounding 10 others, police reported.
The blast may have been in retaliation for a suicide bombing the previous day against the police headquarters in Basra, an attack which killed three policemen and wounded 20 others. Nearly all the Basra police are Shi’ites.
Also yesterday, the U.S. command announced that an American soldier had been killed the previous day by small-arms fire in eastern Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Defense Ministry announced its troops had prevented a suicide attack Tuesday by two bomb-laden trucks against a dam on Lake Tharthar. It said the trucks were driven by Afghans. There have been persistent reports that al Qaeda might target dams to flood Baghdad and other cities.
In New York, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned the U.N. General Assembly that the continued flow of weapons, suicide bombers and terrorism funding into his country would result in “disastrous consequences” for the region and the world.
Mr. al-Maliki, who met with President Bush on Tuesday, urged the international community and countries in the region to support Iraq’s national reconciliation process to rid the country of terrorism and bring peace to the region.