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Iraq Hit By Wave Of Deadly Bombings

  • RFE/RL

The aftermath of a bomb attack in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on May 20.

The aftermath of a bomb attack in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on May 20.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says he will alter his country's security strategy after a wave of attacks killed scores of people across the country on May 20.

Maliki said his government is about to "make changes in the high and middle positions of those responsible for security, and security strategy."

He vowed that extremists "will not be able to return us to the sectarian conflict" which killed thousands in the past.

Maliki was speaking following a string of car bombs across Iraq that killed more than 70 people.

In the latest attack, at least eight Iranian pilgrims were killed when their bus was bombed north of Baghdad.

Earlier on the same day, multiple bombing attacks on May 20 hit bus stations and outdoor markets in Shi'ite neighborhoods of Baghdad, killing at least 39 people and wounding more than 120 others.

Two car bombs also detonated in Shi'ite-majority areas in the southern city of Basra, killing at least 13 people.

One bomb went off near a sandwich stand and the other at the city's main bus station.

Local resident Muhammad Alia was among the more than 40 people injured in the attacks in Basra.

"We were daily wage workers," he said. "We were sitting there [on the street] waiting for work and as usual we gathered near a street food cart and the place was very crowded. I crossed the street to the other side when all of a sudden it turned dark, dust filled the area. I was showered with metal wreckage and wounded on my legs."

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Iraq is home to Sunni Islamist insurgent groups, including the Al- Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, which have previously targeted Shi'a.

But the violence on May 20 also struck Sunnis.

In the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, a car bomb killed three members of pro-government Sunni militia who were waiting outside a military base to receive their salaries.

In the western province of Anbar, a Sunni stronghold, gunmen attacked a police station in the town of Haditha, killing eight policemen.

Tensions between minority Sunni Muslims and majority Shi'a appear to have reached their highest level since U.S. troops pulled out in December 2011.

Sunni's have accused the Shi'ite-led government of marginalizing and persecuting their community and leaders.

The country has seen a spate of attacks over the last week, including a series of bombings on May 17 that left at least 75 people dead.

The violence has raised fears of a return to the sectarian warfare that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007.

At the height of the sectarian fighting, the monthly death toll reached up to 3,000.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa