BAGHDAD: Car bombs ripped through Baghdad cafes and markets while blasts and shootings struck elsewhere on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), killing 61 people as Iraq marked the end of its deadliest Ramadan holy month in years.
The attacks were the latest in spiralling violence which authorities have failed to stem, with the worst bloodshed in five years raising worries of a return to the all-out Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict that killed tens of thousands in past years.
The latest violence comes just weeks after brazen assaults, claimed by an al-Qaeda front group, on prisons near Baghdad that freed hundreds of militants.
The United States condemned the perpetrators of Saturday’s (Sunday’s) attacks as “enemies of Islam and a shared enemy of the United States, Iraq, and the international community,” in an unusually detailed statement.
The State Department said the “cowardly” attacks had been “aimed at families celebrating the Eid al-Fitr” holiday that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated the $10 million award offered for al-Qaeda in Iraq’s purported leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is believed to be sheltering in Syria.
“He has taken personal credit for a series of terrorist attacks in Iraq since 2011, and most recently claimed credit for the operations against the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, the suicide bombing assault on the Ministry of Justice, among other attacks against Iraqi security forces and Iraqi citizens,” Psaki said.
“The United States has offered a $10 million reward for information that helps authorities kill or capture Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This reward is second only to information leading to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the chief of al-Qaeda’s network,” she added.
The State Department response came after a week in which the United States had closed embassies and missions across the Arab world following intelligence reports of a possible al-Qaeda strike.
Saturday’s violence followed major security operations against militants that officials hailed as having resulted in the killing and capture of many.