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.

 

Horse-trading begins as Tunisia awaits formation of new government

Israel closes al-Aqsa mosque to worshipers in rare move

UK court says Libyan Abdul-Hakim Belhaj can sue over rendition

Syria accuses Turkey of ‘flagrant violation of sovereignty’

Global campaign to end female genital mutilation kicks off

US to examine troops exposed to chemicals in Iraq

African Union hits back at Somalia rape claims

New scare in Turkey as ‘suspect packages’ found

‘Insults against Netanyahu’ cause embarrassment to US

Kuwait online activist gets four years in jail for insulting judges

Heavy fighting in South Sudan sparks fears of humanitarian catastrophe

Sweden officially recognises State of Palestine

Egypt jails retired general for damaging national security

Gaza civil servants receive delayed salaries

After US criticism, Israel vows no concessions to Palestinians

Libya internationally recognised PM opens doors of dialogue with rivals

Huthi rebels seize stronghold of Muslim Brotherhood in central Yemen

Will Nidaa Tounes shun Islamists in Tunisia government formation?

Egypt starts work on buffer zone along border with Gaza

Turkey Sultan unveils new palace: Another break with symbols of secular state

Heavy toll as ‘Islamic State’ fights for control of Syria oil field

Iran President suffers fresh setback with rejection of Science Minister

Nuclear deal or no deal: ‘Red lines’ lay bare internal divisions in Iran

Heavy security in Mogadishu as UN chief meets Somalia president

Fighters from Free Syrian Army leave Turkey to join Kobane battle

Israel denies banning Palestinians sharing buses

Kurd fighters leave northern Iraq base for Syria deployment

Jordan requests UN emergency meeting over Israel settler expansion

Jerusalem Mayor visits Al-Aqsa mosque prompting anger

Tunisia reinforces commitment to democracy with ‘transparent’ elections

Turkey ‘decides’ for Kobane future: No Kurds, no Assad... Only Free Syrian Army!

Bahrain suspends Al-Wefaq weeks before parliamentary elections

Huge game changer in Tunisia: ‘In-credible’ failure of Islamist Ennahda Party

Libya PM in Khartoum for talks with Bashir

PKK hijack truck seizing explosive substance

Saudi lawyers get jail time for offensive tweets

Ennahda concedes defeat in Tunisia parliamentary elections

Syria rebels launch assault on regime-held city of Idlib

Iraq peshmerga wait for Turkey stance to depart for Syria

Sisi enacts military trials decree to cover ‘existential threat’

US calls for online war against ‘Islamic State’

Donors pledge $8 billion for Horn of Africa

Acid attacks in Iran: Deputy of Judiciary Chief to lead investigation

Lebanon army enters Islamist stronghold in Tripoli

Israel approves plans for 1,000 settler homes in East Jerusalem