Car bombs in mainly Shi’ite districts of the Iraqi capital and a shooting killed at least 19 people on Wednesday, police said, driving the death toll so far this month to nearly 1,000, according to Iraq Body Count.
No group claimed responsibility for the blasts, but members of the country’s Shi’ite majority are often targeted by Sunni Islamist insurgents, some linked with al Qaeda, who have regained ground in Iraq over the past year.
Twin blasts in the capital’s southern Shula district on Wednesday evening killed seven people and a car bomb in New Baghdad claimed a further five lives. Another explosion in Talibiya killed four, and in Camp Sarah, a mainly Christian neighborhood, gunmen shot three more dead.
The al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has exploited resentment among minority Sunnis against the Shi’ite-led government for policies perceived as unfairly penalizing their once-dominant community.
On January 1, militants overran two cities in the Sunni heartland province of Anbar, which shares a border with Syria, where ISIL is also active.
During his weekly televised address, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blamed renewed militancy in Iraq on the Syrian civil war, which has inflamed sectarian tensions across the Middle East.
“What happened in Syria was what restored terrorism to us,” Maliki said, blaming unspecified countries for supporting al Qaeda by arming mainly Sunni rebel groups fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I repeat what I said, that … to send weapons to terrorist groups and extremists in Syria, means supporting them in Iraq.”
Violence in Iraq reached its highest level in five years in 2013, with nearly 9,000 people killed, the United Nations said.