First Published: 2013-04-19

 

27 killed in Baghdad billiards cafe bombing

 

Violence spikes in Iraq ahead of Saturday's provincial elections, with 14 candidates already having been killed.

 

Middle East Online

By Prashant Rao - BAGHDAD

Carnage

Violence spiked as Iraq readied Friday for its first elections since US troops withdrew, with 27 people killed in a late-night bombing at a Baghdad billiards cafe frequented by young men.

The attack raises further questions about the credibility of Saturday's provincial elections, with 14 candidates already having been killed and a third of the country's provinces not even voting amid an ongoing political crisis.

The polls are seen as a key test of Iraq's stability and security, and will provide a gauge of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's popularity as he grapples with infighting in his national unity government and months of protests by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority.

The latest bombing struck at 10:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Thursday in the west Baghdad suburb of Amriyah, leaving 27 dead and more than 50 others wounded, security and medical officials said.

Among the dead were at least three children and a woman.

It exploded at the Dubai cafe, which lies on the 2nd floor of a small shopping mall in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood that is filled with families as it contains restaurants and clothes shops.

The cafe itself, however, is mostly frequented by young men playing billiards and video games.

Security forces restricted movements in Amriyah on Friday in the wake of the blast.

The bombing is the latest in a wave of violence, with 50 people killed in nationwide attacks on Monday, and March having been the deadliest month in Iraq since last summer, according to an AFP tally.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda frequently set off bombings in both Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods across the capital, and the country, in a bid to undermine confidence in the government and security forces.

Officials and diplomats also complain that a long-running spat that has pitted Maliki against several of his erstwhile government partners has been exploited by insurgent groups who use the political differences to enhance their room for manoeuvre on the ground.

An estimated 13.8 million Iraqis are eligible to vote on Saturday for more than 8,000 candidates, with 378 seats being contested.

It is the first vote in Iraq since March 2010 parliamentary polls, and the first since US forces withdrew from the country in December 2011.

Diplomats have raised questions over the credibility of the vote, however, as attacks against candidates have left at least 14 dead and others withdrawing for fear of being targeted, while six of Iraq's 18 provinces will not be taking part, including two where authorities say security cannot be ensured.

Iraqi forces are solely responsible for polling day security, the first time they have been in charge without support from American or other international forces during elections since dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

 

Egypt blacklists Hamas armed wing as ‘terrorist organization’

UN chief backs African force to fight Boko Haram

Party of Yemen ex-president breaks boycott to join Huthi meeting

Concern rises in Japan as hostage negotiations hit 'deadlock'

Wary of Internet, jihadists change communication strategy

Who plotted assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh?

Bahrain revokes citizenship of 72 unrest convicts

AU: Ignoring South Sudan findings will help the guilty

Hezbollah warns it does not fear new war with Israel

Saudi blogger’s flogging postponed for third week

Iran seeks good relations with Saudi Arabia

Jordan still kept in the dark over pilot fate

Syria’s Qaeda fights Western-backed rebels

Abbas to visit Stockholm after Palestine recognised

UN chief to African leaders: do not 'cling to power'

Israel to go ahead with 430 new West Bank settler homes

Libya rivals to join peace talks if held on home soil

New Saudi king announces sweeping cabinet shake-up

Deadly Sinai attacks force Sisi to cut short overseas trip

Israel reduces energy supplies to Palestinians

Syria opposition embassy in Qatar renews passports

Hezbollah sends message to Israel ‘conflict is over’

Women protest against Egypt police after fatal shooting

Libyan airline suspends flights

Iraq government vows to investigate Diyala massacre

MSF withdraws help from two Sudan states

Jordan wants to see proof pilot alive before exchange

US says thousands of Somali children facing starvation

Kuwait online activists arrested 'over Saudi criticism'

British mosques open doors to reach out to citizens

Iran, Europe officials to meet Thursday in Istanbul

IS issues new deadline to kill Jordanian pilot if demand not met

Netanyahu warns Hezbollah will pay 'full price'

African Union sees no military solution to Libya crisis

Yemen powerful militia prevents fresh protest in Sanaa

Iran appoints new UN ambassador after US visa refusal

Pentagon confirms US involvement in talks with Yemen Huthis

Hezbollah missiles threaten to spark new war in volatile region

In new website, France warns would-be jihadists: You will die alone

Israel retaliates against Hezbollah attack

Can Iraqis trust their government to rebuild their country?

Sheikh Ali Salman rejects charges as trial opens in Bahrain

Protesters try to storm UN headquarters in Gaza

UN peacekeeper killed in southern Lebanon amid border clash

Kobane in ruins after symbolic blow to jihadists