75 die in Iraq attacks, Russia blast toll rises

No fewer than 75 persons have died in a new wave of attacks in Iraq. Also, rescuers pulled 19 more bodies from the rubble of Russia’s largest coal mine while 59 miners and those who had gone in to save them were still missing deep underground as water flooded into the shafts.

The official death toll in the mine incident now stands at 31 following two explosions in the Siberian mine.

The Associated Press (AP) said yesterday that many of the dead were rescue workers who had gone into the mine after the first of the weekend blasts. A second, more powerful blast then destroyed the main air shaft , which had a diameter of five metres , and a five-story building over the mine. Black soot covered the area.

High levels of methane gas remaining in the mine had raised fears of further explosions and prevented rescue workers from resuming their search until early Monday.

A spokesman for the Babil provincial police, Maj. Muthana Khalid, said 25 people were killed in yesterday’s bombings at Hillah, 95 kilometres south of Baghdad and the provincial capital of Babil.

The Hillah bombings were the latest in a series of deadly blasts and drive-by shootings in Baghdad and across the country that have left dozens dead.

Bombings and drive-by shootings killed at least 29 Iraqis yesterday and wounded dozens more in what appeared in part to be a targeted assault on police and army forces around Baghdad.

The single deadliest attack, however, struck civilians in the small town of Suwayrah as a pair of bombs – one in a parked car and the other planted along a road – killed eight passers-by and wounded 71, according to an Iraqi police official and a hospital worker in the nearby city of Kut.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media. Suwayrah is located about 40 kilometres south of Baghdad.

In the capital, Iraqi military and police fanned out across the city after gunmen in speeding cars attacked security checkpoints and military patrols in the early morning hours, officials said. At least 10 people were killed in those attacks.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the attacks seemed to be a deliberate attempt by insurgents to show they were still able to hit in the heart of the capital despite recent successes by U.S. and Iraqi security forces in dismantling terror networks operating in Iraq.

Additional checkpoints were set up around Baghdad by noon yesterday. Uniformed police escorting a car with a flag-draped casket – believed to be one of the victims – fired their guns into the air and blared their sirens as they raced down a busy street in the central Baghdad neighbourhood of Karradah.

The attacks also come at a precarious time as Iraq awaits a new government to be formed more than two months after landmark parliamentary elections and worries that insurgents will try to exploit the ongoing political uncertainty to stoke new violence.

Up to 17 people were also injured in the Baghdad attacks. The first attack came at about 3 a.m. in western Baghdad when gunmen in a speeding car opened fire on an army patrol, killing one soldier and injuring another, Iraqi officials said.

That incident was followed by at least six other attacks. Although most of them were drive-by shootings, a roadside bomb in western Baghdad targeting a police patrol killed three civilians.

It was not immediately known who was behind the attacks or how many people were involved in the incidents which took place over roughly two and a half hours in five different neighbourhoods across the capital.



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