BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gave a defiant response to deadly coordinated bombings at the weekend claimed by al Qaeda, promising in a speech on Wednesday to hunt down those responsible.
Scores of people were killed by the bombings over the Eid al-Fitr Muslim holiday in mainly Shi‘ite Muslim areas, adding to the worst wave of violence in Iraq in at least five years.
Al Qaeda’s merged Iraq and Syria branch said the bombings were in response to a security crackdown launched by Baghdad.
“The operations we have started - to go after the terrorist gangs and those who stand behind them - will continue unabated,” Maliki said in a short speech broadcast on state television.
“We won’t stop until we protect our people from all the means used for killing, crime and terrorism.”
Iraq launched its “Avenge the Martyrs” security campaign after mass jail breaks last month, also claimed by al Qaeda, which has been boosted by the war in neighboring Syria and discontent among Iraq’s minority Sunni population.
Maliki said security forces had arrested more than 800 wanted suspects and seized large amounts of explosives and weapons since the security campaign started last month.
It has been one of the deadliest Ramadan holidays in years in Iraq, where Sunni Islamist militants are waging an insurgency against Maliki’s Shi‘ite-led government.
Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Robin Pomeroy