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‘Open war’ on al-Qaeda after Baghdad blasts

Deadly bomb attacks in Baghdad are aimed at pressuring political blocs battling to form a government, a top politician said Wednesday, as Iraq declared “open war”with Al-Qaeda over the surge in violence.

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Six bombs in the capital killed at least 35 people on Tuesday, two days after another co-ordinated set of attacks against foreign embassies killed 30 people.

The sudden wave of attacks has fuelled fears that insurgents are making a return due to a political impasse following March 7 elections.

“They have a political motive — they are being used as pressure on the political blocs,” Baghdad Governor Salah Abdul Razzaq told AFP, adding that he believed the attacks were intended to put pressure on particular lists as they carried out negotiations over government formation.

He did not say which blocs he was referring to or elaborate further.

His remarks reiterate those from Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, following warnings from security officials that a protracted period of coalition formation could give insurgents an opportunity to further destabilise Iraq.

Iraqi political parties are still locked in negotiations in a bid to form a government, nearly a month after the election left four main blocs each without sufficient seats to form a parliamentary majority on its own.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance finished with 89 seats in the 325-member parliament after the March 7 parliamentary elections, two fewer than ex-premier Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc.

Allawi has accused Iran of seeking to prevent him becoming prime minister again by inviting all major parties except his secular bloc to Tehran.

Abdul Razzaq, a member of State of Law, added that he was unhappy with security measures in the capital, saying “there are still weak points”.

“At inspection points, they are not using new technologies — they are using classical methods,” he said.

Iraq’s security forces have been widely criticised for using a sonar explosives detector widely panned as useless.

The detectors appear to have failed to have stopped either Sunday’s vehicle bombs or Tuesday’s blasts targeting residential buildings.

“We are in a war. In our case, it is an open war with remnants of Al-Qaeda and the Baath” party of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta told Al-Arabiya television.

“There has been support for terrorist groups from outside Iraq, from people who don’t want to see the political process be a success,” he added, without elaborating.

The latest violence follows a Saturday attack south of Baghdad blamed on Al-Qaeda in which security officials said 25 villagers linked to an anti-Qaeda militia were rounded up and shot execution-style by men in army uniforms.

The United States insisted that the upsurge of bloodletting would not compromise its goal of withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq by the end of August.

“I think many expected that insurgents would use this time to roll back the progress, both militarily and politically, that we’ve seen in Iraq,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

Gibbs said the White House was in touch with US ambassador to Baghdad Christopher Hill and US commander General Ray Odierno.

Odierno “believes that this does not threaten our ability to draw down our forces later in the year,” Gibbs said, but added Washington was very focused on the steps needed to be taken by Iraqi leaders to form a government.

Obama has ordered all US combat troops be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of August and for all American soldiers to be out of the country by the end of 2011.

Although the frequency of attacks by insurgents has dropped significantly since peaking in 2006 and 2007, figures released on Thursday showed 367 Iraqis were killed in violence last month — the highest number this year.

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