An al-Qaeda affiliated group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for a series of shootings and bombings that have killed dozens of people during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice). In a statement posted on a militant website, the Islamic State of Iraq network warned the Iraqi government about not "having peace during Eid or at any other time," the Aswat al-Iraq news agency reported on Tuesday.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a shadowy group that was once allegedly led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was reportedly killed in June 2006.According to US government and military officials, the group was then led by Ayyub al-Masri, who was killed along with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi -- another leader of the group -- in a joint Iraqi-US operation in Salahuddin province in April 2010. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been blamed for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country since the US-led invasion in March 2003. Bombings and shootings have recently increased across Iraq, and many believe that the attacks are being carried out to undermine the central government. Official figures show that September was the bloodiest month in Iraq in almost two years, with attacks killing 365 people, the highest monthly death toll since August 2010. The statistics, which were compiled by the health, interior, and defense ministries, show that 182 civilians, 88 police officers, and 95 soldiers were killed in attacks in September. The violence reached a crescendo on September 8 and 9, when more than 30 attacks killed at least 88 people and injured more than 400. September 30 was the second deadliest day of the month, with a death toll of 33 and 106 injured. Violence has increased in Iraq since December 2011, when an arrest warrant was issued for fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who has been charged with running a death squad targeting Iraqi officials and Shia Muslims. In response, the government has stepped up efforts to increase security across the country over the past few months. MP/HGL