Page last updated at 19:24 GMT, Friday, 6 January 2006

Analysis: Surge in Iraq violence

By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Baghdad

Even for a country anaesthetised to bombings and killing on a daily basis, the last week in Iraq has been particularly bloody.

In the last three days around 200 people have died and hundreds more have been injured - Thursday was one of the worst days of violence since the end of the war.

Funeral for the Karbala dead
Funerals for the dead in Karbala, one of Shia Islam's holiest cities
Suicide bombers wearing explosives around their bodies were responsible for much of the killing, blowing themselves up in crowds to deliberately cause the greatest loss of life.

And you just have to look at the targets to understand what the insurgents are trying to do in this new wave of violence.

On Wednesday it was mourners at a funeral in Muqdadiya - there had been an assassination attempt on a local Shia Daawa party leader the day before.

He had survived, but some of his entourage had not. More than 40 died in the graveyard.

Pilgrims targeted

On Thursday it was pilgrims killed outside the Shrine to Imam Hussein in Karbala - one of the most important religious cities, and shrines, in Shia Islam. More than 50 were killed.

There is a clear sectarian motivation which is aimed at driving a wedge between Sunni and Shia - to encourage civil war

Then just an hour later witnesses said two suicide bombers hit a queue of police recruits waiting to be enlisted in the western city of Ramadi. Some reports say as many as 80 died.

With hundreds injured, this was another attack on Iraq's fledgling forces of law and order to disrupt and destabilise the country.

And there is a clear sectarian motivation which is aimed at driving a wedge between Sunni and Shia - to encourage civil war - just as the political parties are working to bring all sides together in an inclusive new coalition government.


Talks have been going on for a while now and the election results are expected over the weekend, with a final picture of who has gained which seats emerging within a week.

The talks are making progress, but it is a long process and the violence is a good indication of how the insurgents can take advantage of a political vacuum.

The longer it takes for the new government to assume power, the harder it is going to be for it to bring stability and peace to the country - something people are hoping, perhaps optimistically, the new administration may bring.

And these are simply the big attacks that have grabbed the headlines - there have been many other suicide and roadside bombings, killings, abductions, ambushes and gun battles.

It is difficult to keep track of the rising casualty lists amid a flood of violence across the country.

As a reader, viewer or listener these attacks can merge into one - pictures of bloodied people running in terror, of bodies being piled high on the backs of trucks.

But for every injury, for every death, a family is hit hard and the fear associated with living in this war-ravaged country takes away another little piece of their lives.

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