At Least 20 Dead In Baghdad Blasts; Fighting In Anbar Continues

· Jan. 5, 2014, 2:58 pm

More news Sunday of violence in Iraq: At least 20 people are dead in the capital, Baghdad, following a wave of bombings.

This is how the blasts unfolded: Two car bombs in the Shaab neighborhood killed 10 and wounded 26. Another in Sadr City killed five and wounded 10. Both those neighborhoods are predominantly Shiite. A third blast in the commercial Bab al-Muadham area killed three and wounded six; two other blasts in the city killed two and wounded 13.

The attacks come as Sunni militants step up their campaign against both al-Qaida-backed militias and the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Qaida-linked militants have taken over parts of Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar province. You may recall that the province was among the most unstable during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

Reuters reports:

“Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been steadily tightening its grip in the vast Sunni-dominated Anbar province in recent months in a bid to create a Sunni Muslim state straddling the frontier with Syria. But last week’s capture of positions in Ramadi and large parts of Falluja was the first time in years that Sunni insurgents had taken ground in the province’s major cities and held their positions for days.”

The news agency reported that government forces launched an airstrike Sunday on Ramadi, killing 25 militants.

Local tribes have joined forces with ISIL in Fallujah, while in Ramadi the tribes have joined forces with the government.

Speaking in Jerusalem, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. was “very, very concerned” by the developments, but ruled out any direct U.S. involvement.

“This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the president and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq. So we are not, obviously, contemplating returning,” he said. “We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight.”

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