BAGHDAD (AP): Insurgents killed at least 44 people in a wave of attacks against Iraqi security forces on Sunday, gunning down soldiers at an army post and bombing police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs, officials said.
The violence, which struck at least 11 cities and wounded nearly 240 people, highlighted militant attempts to sow havoc in the country and undermine the government.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but security forces are a frequent target of al-Qaida’s Iraq branch, which has vowed to reassert itself and take back areas it was forced from before U.S. troops withdrew from the country last year.
“What kind of life is this?” said Safeen Qadir, 26, a university student in Kirkuk. He described dead bodies and weeping, shouting relatives at bombing scenes in Kirkuk, where three midmorning explosions killed seven and wounded about 70.
“Because of the daily explosions, we must write our wills before go out of home,” Qadir said. “The death exists in every inch of the city of Kirkuk, and no one is spared from the crime of terrorism.”
In Sunday’s deadliest attack, gunmen stormed a small Iraqi Army outpost in the town of Dujail before dawn, killing at least 10 soldiers and wounding eight more, according to police and hospital officials in the nearby city of Balad, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information to reporters.
Hours later, a car bomb struck a group of police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs with the state-run Northern Oil Co. outside the northern city of Kirkuk. City police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir, no relation to the university student, said seven recruits were killed and 17 wounded. He said all the recruits were Sunni Muslims and blamed the early morning attack on al-Qaida.
The carnage stretched into the country’s south, where bombs stuck to two parked cars exploded in the Shiite-dominated city of Nasiriyah, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad. The blasts were near the French consulate and a local hotel in the city, although the consulate did not appear to be a target of the attack.
Local deputy health director Dr. Adnan al-Musharifawi said two people were killed and three were wounded at the hotel, and one Iraqi policeman was wounded at the consulate. Al-Musharifawi said no French diplomats were among the casualties.
In Paris, France’s Foreign Ministry said it “condemns with the greatest severity” the wave of attacks. In a statement, the ministry said it “especially condemned” the attack outside France’s honorary consulate in Nasiriyah, which killed an Iraqi police officer and wounded a passer-by.
A statement by Iraq’s Interior Ministry blamed al-Qaida for the onslaught.
“The attacks today on the markets and mosques are to provoke sectarian and political tensions,” the statement said. “Our war against terrorism is continuing, and we are ready.”
Al-Qaida’s Iraq franchise, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq, has for years had a hot-and-cold relationship with the global terror network’s leadership. The two shared the goal of targeting the U.S. military in Iraq and, to an extent, undermining the Shiite government that replaced Saddam Hussein’s regime.
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