Bombs kill 69 in Iraq

By Rebecca Santana ASSOCIATED PRESS

BAGHDAD (AP) — The bloodiest day of the year in Iraq left at least 69 people dead in a series of bombings in mainly Shiite areas Friday — concerted attacks seen as demonstrating the resilience of the Sunni-led insurgency after the slaying of two al-Qaida leaders last weekend.

No one has taken responsibility for the blasts, but officials were quick to blame Sunni-led insurgent groups for attacking at a particularly fragile time as Iraq awaits formation of a new government and prepares for U.S. troops to go home by the end of next year.

The protracted political wrangling since contentious March 7 elections has raised fears of sectarian violence akin to that seen at the height of the war.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lashed out at the bombers in a statement Friday night, saying the insurgents were trying to fight back after Iraqi security forces killed the two al-Qaida in Iraq leaders on April 18.

“The cowardly terrorist attacks that occurred today were intending to cover the great success achieved by the security forces through the killing of the leaders of wickedness and terrorism, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri,” al-Maliki said.

He also called on Iraqis to stand firm against Baathists, former members of the Baath Party that ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The term “Baathist” strikes a particular chord with many Shiites who fear the party’s followers may yet rise again to rule the country; Sunnis often feel the word is a thinly veiled attack on all of the minority sect.

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