Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

March 19, 2013

Wave of Iraq blasts kill 57 decade after invasion

BAGHDAD (AP) — A wave of bombings tore through the Baghdad area Tuesday, killing 57 people on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion and showing how unstable Iraq remains more than a year after the withdrawal of American troops.

Violence has ebbed sharply since the peak of Sunni-Shiite fighting that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007. But insurgents maintain the ability to stage high-profile attacks while sectarian and ethnic rivalries continue to tear at the fabric of national unity.

The symbolism of Tuesday's attacks was strong, coming 10 years to the day that Washington launched the invasion with a "shock and awe" campaign of airstrikes on March 19, 2003 — before dawn the following day in Iraq.

The military action quickly ousted Saddam Hussein but led to years of bloodshed as Sunni and Shiite militants battled U.S. forces and each other, leaving nearly 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis killed.

A decade later, Iraq's long-term stability and the strength of its democracy remain open questions.

The country is unquestionably freer and more democratic than it was during Saddam's murderous reign. But instead of a solidly pro-U.S. regime, the Iraqis have a Shiite-led government that is arguably closer to Tehran than to Washington and is facing an outpouring of anger by the Sunni minority that was dominant under Saddam and at the heart of the insurgency.

Tuesday's apparently coordinated attacks included car bombs and explosives stuck to the underside of vehicles. They targeted government security forces and mainly Shiite areas, small restaurants, day laborers and bus stops over a span of more than two hours, according to police and hospital officials.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, but they bore hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq. The terror group, which favors car bombs and coordinated bombings intended to undermine public confidence in the government, has sought to reassert its presence in recent weeks.

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