Iraq's Al-Qaeda claims attacks on Shiite pilgrims

Reuters , Saturday 16 Jun 2012

The US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which follows jihadist websites, says Al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq wing (ISI) claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bombings that targeted Shiite pilgrims

Iraqi police special forces stand guard at a checkpoint in front of the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in Baghdad's Kadhimiya district. (Photo: Reuters)

Al-Qaeda's Iraq affiliate has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attacks on Shiite pilgrims across Iraq that killed more than 70 people in the country's worst day of violence this year, a group that monitors insurgent communications said.

The U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which follows jihadist websites, said on Saturday that Al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq wing (ISI) claimed it carried out the bombings in Baghdad and other cities, targeting mainly Shiite pilgrims.

SITE said a statement issued on jihadist forums on June 15 said the ISI called the attacks the "blessed Wednesday invasion" and a "serious blow" to the enemy's security.

Iraq's Al-Qaeda affiliate was weakened by its long war with U.S. and Iraqi security forces, but since the last American troops left in December, the group and Sunni Islamist insurgents have carried out a major attack about once a month this year.

Thousands of Shiite pilgrims had gathered this week in Baghdad to mark the anniversary of the death of imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of Prophet Mohammad.

Al Qaeda in Iraq often hits Shiite targets in an attempt to stir up the kind of sectarian violence that drove Iraq to the edge of civil war and killed tens of thousands of people in 2006-2007. They also target security forces to try to show the Shiite-led government is failing to stamp out violence.

Earlier this month, ISI claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a major Shiite religious office in Baghdad, which killed 26 people, wounded 190 and evoked memories of the darker days of the country's conflict.

Political tensions are already high as the Shiite, Sunni Muslim and ethnic Kurdish parties that make up the government feud over how to share power and Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fends off attempts at a vote of no confidence.

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