More Violence in Iraq

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. US troops have come home from Iraq, but the conflict there is far from over. In fact, the violence in Iraq has increased since the last American soldiers left last month. The latest attack came today in Baghdad. A suicide car bomber killed more than 30 people in one of the city's Shia neighborhoods. Report Jane Arraf is in Iraq.

Jane Arraf: This was an attack that took place actually on a funeral procession, which is pretty horrific and fairly common at the same time. And the neighborhood it took place in, the southeast neighborhood called Zafarniyah is notable really because it's an ordinary neighborhood, and that's part of the horror of this that these attacks do tend to take place on easy targets.

Mullins: And it's a hallmark of what kind of perpetrator? Do we know who is behind it?

Arraf: It's believed to be al-Qaeda simply because when you have a suicide bomber or suicide car bombs it has traditionally been al-Qaeda in Iraq and affiliated groups that have taken responsibility. In addition, these are all Shia targets and that's generally what we're seeing these days as well, and that too is in line with the groups target of stirring up sectarian violence in an attempt apparently, to restart the civil war.

Mullins: From the figures that we've been getting, Jane, the amount of violent deaths within Iraq is double this month what it was last January. Is it believed that that's directly tied to the US troop withdrawal from Iraq last month?

Arraf: Well, that actually was so political that some Iraqis will tell you it's because the Americans left, although they'll only tell you that privately. And many Iraqis say it would've been worse had the Americans stayed. As it is, what it really points to is that these attacks are going to exist and continue independently of whether foreign troops are here. Now, one of the things that's missing in this equation is the help that the Americans were able to give the Iraqi security forces. You can't really protect against somebody who wants to strap on a bomb and blow themselves up, but what you can do is find them first, and that actually requires an intelligence gathering capability, the ability to analyze a single intelligence -- some of the things that they lost when the Americans left and some of the things they're actually trying to work on getting back.

Mullins: Jane, you are in northern Iraq right now in Erbil. You've seen a fair amount of the country. Is the violence that we hear about in Baghdad happening elsewhere?

Arraf: Baghdad does tend to be more violent. Having said that, we seen lately a lot of attacks in the south, particularly on Shia pilgrims. Now, the north is a totally different story. It's a bit like Switzerland here. It's extremely stable, stable at a cost. They have kept out a lot of the groups that have been here and it's also stable because it's almost exclusively Kurdish, so we haven't seen those attacks here by any means, but certainly there are areas that people are very concerned about outside Baghdad.

Mullins: Reporting from Erbil in northern Iraq, Jane Arraf, thank you.

Arraf: Thank you.