While Iraq has been off the media’s radar for some time, the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings has eclipsed the current wave of sectarian violence that preceded last week’s provincial elections in Iraq. Although the elections -the first since the US withdrawal -went off with an estimated turnout of about 51 percent, resistance was stiff.
On April 12, a bomb detonated near a Sunni mosque in Kanaan, Diyala Province, killing 14 and wounding over 40. Minutes later, another bomb went off at a Shia mosque in Baghdad. On the same day in Kirkuk, the Sahwa (Awakening) leader, Sheikh Hussein Taha, was assassinated when a sticky bomb was placed on his car. Taha had been a prominent military leader of the Sahwa near Tikrit.
Two days later, a series of attacks in Mosul, Muqtadiyah and Fallujah killed 10 more people; including Najam Saeed, a Sunni candidate in the provincial elections. Saeed was the 13th candidate killed to date. The attack in Mosul used a booby-trapped body to blow up several Iraqi Policemen.
On April 15, the same day as the Boston bombings, six IEDs were detonated in Baghdad, killing 21 people and wounding 65 others. Further attacks in Salahuddin, Ninawa; Diyala, Kirkuk; Al Anbar, Dhi Kar; and Babil provinces killed 9 more and wounded over 140. Iraqi officials maintained that the bombs utilized poisoned shrapnel, and expected the death toll to rise.
Three days later (two days prior to the elections), a suicide bomber blew himself up in a cafe in Baghdad, killing 32 and wounding 65. That same day, the top judge of Fallujah’s criminal court, Maarouf Al-Kubaisi, was shot and killed in a clothing market within central Fallujah.
The day before the election, more bombs went off, killing 9 more in Kirkuk and Khalis, and another Sahwa leader, Sheikh Majid Saad, was executed in his house garden in al-Taji. As with the judge in Fallujah, Saad was shot using suppressed pistols.
The security situation in Iraq is worsening. For all the effort put into standing up the Iraqi security forces, they are failing. Political and sectarian divisions within the government are hampering the ability of the security forces to respond to the still very real threat of the Islamist insurgency. As matters worsen in Syria, this could well become more of a problem, as the ties between Al Nusrah and the Islamic State of Iraq keep the civil war spilling over the border.