- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

BAGHDAD | At least seven bombs ripped through apartment buildings across Baghdad Tuesday, and another struck a market, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 180, authorities said.

The explosions were the latest in a five-day spree of attacks in and around the capital that have killed at least 119 people. Several bombs were planted inside empty apartments, the government said.

The violence, which has largely targeted families and homes, is reminiscent of the sectarian bloodshed that tore Iraq apart from 2005 to 2007 and prompted the United States to send tens of thousands more troops to the front lines. Since that time, however, sectarian violence and attacks on civilians have flared in cycles, especially surrounding important events such as last month’s still-disputed election.

Iraqi and U.S. officials blamed the latest spike in attacks on al Qaeda insurgents seizing on gaping security lapses in the wake of political deadlock that has gripped the country since its March 7 parliamentary election failed to produce a clear winner.

“This is blamed on the power vacuum, of course, and on how democracy is being raped in Iraq,” former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told Associated Press in an interview. His political coalition, Iraqiya, came out ahead in last month’s vote, narrowly edging Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc by just two seats.

“Because people are sensing there are powers who want to obstruct the path of democracy, terrorists and al Qaeda are on the go,” Mr. Allawi said. “I think their operations will increase in Iraq.”

He also raised the prospect that the country’s political impasse could last for months as both sides try to cobble together the majority needed to govern.

“It could either be formed in two months, or it could last four or five months,” he said.

Al-Maliki adviser Sadiq al-Rikabi challenged Mr. Allawi’s suggestion that Iraqi security forces had let down their guard since the elections.

“It is true that terrorism and attacks are attributed to the political situation the country is experiencing, and we have faced terrorism before elections as well,” Mr. al-Rikabi said. “Some parts are using terrorism events for political goals.”

Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman for Baghdad’s operations command center, said the attackers detonated homemade bombs and, in one case, a car packed with explosives. He said there were at least seven blasts. The U.S. military in Baghdad said there were eight.

Gen. Al-Moussawi said Iraq is in a “state of war” with terrorists.

Police and medical officials said the death toll from Tuesday’s explosions was at least 50, and that women and children were among the dead. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release information publicly.

The first blasts hit around 9:30 a.m. in the primarily Shi’ite neighborhood of Shula in northwestern Baghdad, striking a residential building and an intersection about a mile away, according to police and hospital officials who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

A few minutes later, at 9:45 a.m. a bomb left in a plastic bag exploded at a restaurant in the Allawi district downtown, near the Culture Ministry. Dozens of people gathered at the bomb site in the hours after the explosion, digging through bricks in the hopes of finding survivors.

Several of the bombs were planted inside empty apartments by renters who “lured the owners” by paying high prices for the properties, the government said in a statement.

Several hours later, a parked car bomb exploded in a market, killing six civilians, police and hospital officials.

The bombings were the fourth set of attacks with multiple casualties across Iraq in five days.

AP writers Hamid Ahmed, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, David Rising and Elizabeth A. Kennedy contributed to this report.

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