119 Killed in Iraq

Security has been boosted in Iraq after 119 people were killed and hundreds were wounded in a string of attacks across the country.

The attacks stretched from cities in the north to the normally peaceful southern port of Basra, leading to new checkpoints being established in Baghdad – especially in the east side of the city.

These attacks have come as a blow after recent victories against insurgents have raised questions about the militants’ enduring strength.

Manpower was especially increased south of Baghdad, around the provincial capital of Hillah, where at least 50 people died after a pair of car bombs exploded at a factory, luring over rescuers and onlookers, many of whom were then killed by a suicide bomber.

Around 40 guards at the factory are being investigated by police to try and find any connections to the attack.

Basra was the second worst hit city, with 30 people dying in three bombings.

Hillah was also the site of bombings in 2007 where 120 people were killed. The north of the province was once the scene of bloody sectarian fighting as it is mixed between the Sunnis and Shiites.

The latest bombings, hitting at least 10 cities and towns as the day unfolded, raised concerns over whether Iraqi security forces can protect the country as America prepares to withdraw 50% of its 92,000 troops over the next four months.

Officials blamed insurgents linked to al Qaida in Iraq for the attacks claiming that they were attempting to destabilise the country while Iraq’s political factions were still negotiating the formation of a new government – more than two months after inconclusive parliamentary elections were held.

But a new government could also restart violence as sectarian warfare in 2006 and 2007 was sparked by Sunni anger at Shiite domination of successive governments after Saddam Hussein’s 2003 removal.