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03 May 2009

Iraq Bloodshed Rises as US Allies Defect

from The Times by Ali Rifat, Hala Jaber and Sarah Baxter

Iraq is threatened by a new wave of sectarian violence as members of the “Sons of Iraq” - the Sunni Awakening militias that were paid by the US to fight Al-Qaeda - begin to rejoin the insurgency.

If the spike in violence continues, it could affect President Barack Obama’s pledge to withdraw all combat troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June. All US troops are due to leave the country by 2012. A leading member of the Political Council of Iraqi Resistance, which represents six Sunni militant groups, said: “The resistance has now returned to the field and is intensifying its attacks against the enemy. The number of coalition forces killed is on the rise.”

The increase in attacks by such groups, combined with a spate of bombings blamed on Al-Qaeda, has had a chilling effect on the streets of Iraq. More than 370 Iraqi civilians and military - and 80 Iranian pilgrims - lost their lives in April, making it the bloodiest month since last September.

On Wednesday, five car bombs exploded in a crowded market in Sadr City, Baghdad, killing 51 people and injuring 76. Three US soldiers were killed on Thursday and two more yesterday when a gunman in Iraqi army uniform opened fire near Mosul.

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