Iraq bombings kill at least 60
Al-Maliki's Shiite-led government this week accused Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's top Sunni political leader, of running a hit squad that targeted government officials five years ago, during the height of sectarian warfare. Authorities put out a warrant for his arrest.
Many Sunnis fear this is part of a wider campaign to go after Sunni political figures in general and shore up Shiite control across the country at a critical time when all American troops have left Iraq.
Because such a large-scale, coordinated attack likely took weeks to plan, and the political crisis erupted only few days ago, the violence was not likely a direct response to the tensions within the government. Also, al-Qaida opposed Sunni cooperation in the Shiite-dominated government in the first place and is not aligned with Sunni politicians.
The Sunni extremist group often attacks Shiites, who they believe are not true Muslims.
U.S. military officials worried about a resurgence of al-Qaida after their departure. The last American troops left Iraq at dawn Sunday.
Al-Qaida in Iraq is severely debilitated from its previous strength in the early years of the war, but it still has the capability to launch coordinated and deadly assaults from time to time.
The attacks ratchet up tensions at a time when many Iraqis are already deeply worried about security. The real test of whether sectarian warfare returns, however, will be whether Shiite militants are resurgent and return to the type of tit-for-tat attacks seen at the height of sectarian warfare in 2006-2007.
Iraqis are already used to horrific levels of violence, but many wondered when they would be able to enjoy some measure of security and stability after years of chaos.
"My baby was sleeping in her bed. Shards of glass have fallen on our heads. Her father hugged her and carried her. She is now scared in the next room," said one woman in western Baghdad who identified herself as Um Hanin. "All countries are stable. Why don't we have security and stability?"
While Baghdad and Iraq have gotten much safer over the years, explosions like Thursday's are still commonplace.
Al-Maliki's tactics are another source of concern, especially for Sunnis. He is also pushing for a vote of no-confidence against another Sunni politician, the deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.
Ayad Allawi, who heads a Sunni-backed party called Iraqiya, laid the blame for Thursday's violence with the government. The Iraqiya coalition also includes al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq, and Allawi has been one of al-Maliki's strongest critics. Allawi warned that violence would continue as long as people are left out of the political process.
"We have warned long ago that terrorism will continue ... against the Iraqi people unless the political landscape is corrected and the political process is corrected, and it becomes an inclusive political process and full blown non-sectarian institutions will be built in Iraq," Allawi told The Associated Press, speaking from neighboring Beirut. __
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report.
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