Iraq's al Qaeda claims June attacks on Shi'ites

BAGHDAD Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:33pm EDT

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq has claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings and assassinations targeting Shi'ite Muslims that rocked cities and towns across the country in June.

June was one of the bloodiest months in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew at the end of last year, with at least 237 people killed and 603 wounded mainly in bomb attacks, according to a tally by Reuters.

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) said a statement posted on radical Islamist websites that it was behind more than 73 attacks that mainly targeted Shi'ite pilgrims and security officials.

The group had previously said it was responsible for the June 13 attacks in which more than 70 people were killed in bombings targeting Shi'ite pilgrims across the country.

The ISI often hits Shi'ite targets to try to stir up the type of sectarian violence that drove Iraq to the edge of civil war and killed tens of thousands of people in 2006-7.

Although weakened by a long war with U.S. and Iraqi security forces, the group remains capable of coordinating lethal attacks and has typically carried out a major bombing about once a month this year.

Overall violence has dropped in Iraq since the peak of sectarian bloodshed in 2006-7 but bombings and killings still occur daily and a political crisis between the country's main Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions has raised fears of a return to widespread sectarian fighting.

(Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Editing by Alison Williams)

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