- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2009

BAGHDAD | Anger boiled over in Baghdad streets at Iraqi soldiers and police after they failed to prevent a stunning series of coordinated bombings across the city Monday that left 37 dead and more than 100 wounded.

Iraq's government blamed the attacks on supporters of Saddam Hussein “in cooperation with the al Qaeda terrorist organization” and suggested the blasts were timed for Tuesday's anniversary of the founding of the late dictator's Ba'ath Party.

The attacks, which one Interior Ministry official called the worst breach of security in Baghdad this year, occurred as the U.S. military is drawing down its forces in the capital. Some Iraqis pondered whether their own soldiers and police can maintain order if Shi'ite-Sunni violence flares again once the Americans have gone.

At the site of one blast, in the former militia stronghold of Sadr City, an angry crowd hurled stones at Iraqi soldiers they blamed for failing to prevent a car bomb from being brought into a busy market, where it exploded.

“We see nothing from them, they are useless,” said Mohammed Latif, a government employee who lives in Sadr City. “They are responsible for what happened today. They are just sitting at the checkpoint doing nothing and after that they open fire randomly.”

Police said none of the six blasts took more than 12 lives each, far fewer than the 30 people who died in a March 8 suicide attack at Baghdad's police academy and the 33 killed in a suicide bombing two days later at a market on the outskirts of the city.

But the attacks Monday were stunning in their scope, striking widely dispersed targets from the northeast to the southwest of this sprawling city over a four-hour period.

That cast doubt on U.S. and Iraqi assertions that militants were no longer capable of the sort of mass attacks that shook Baghdad in 2006 and 2007.

No group took responsibility for the bombings. A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. David Shoupe, said they were thought to be “a coordinated effort” by al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group, against Shi'ite civilians “to instigate sectarian violence.”

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office said remnants of the former regime in league with al Qaeda carried out the attack to mark the April 7 anniversary of its founding.

The bombings also occurred three days before the sixth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces during the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam's regime.

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