(BAGHDAD) — Militants continue to act with impunity in Iraq as dozens more people were killed on Thursday, turning the Muslim holy month of Ramadan into a bloodbath.
A reported 550 people have died so far in July and 350 since the start of Ramadan on July 10 with al Qaeda in Iraq and its supporters seemingly carrying out targeted attacks against civilians and security forces without fear of retribution.
Thursday’s death toll was at least 42 and demonstrated the various methods insurgents are using to launch assaults throughout the country.
Muqdadiyah, a town about 60 miles north of Baghdad, was the scene of a terrorist attack in which 16 people died and 20 were wounded when a bomb exploded inside a cafe at a time when people were breaking their daily Ramadan fast.
In another northern town, three-off duty soldiers on their way to Baghdad were shot dead by gunmen while leaving a restaurant.
Meanwhile, insurgents in yet another northern region used a fake checkpoint to slaughter unsuspecting motorists. As many as 14 people, all identified as Shiites, were killed, Iraqi authorities said.
Violence has picked up considerably since last April’s provincial elections with new fears that sectarian warfare will erupt again as militants try to pit the minority Sunnis against the ruling Shiite majority.
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Ashley Fantz, AnneClaire Stapleton and Ed Payne, CNN Newswire
Holly Yan, Chuck Johnston and David Williams, CNN