Iraq: more sectarian attacks, protests
A suicide bombing on Feb. 16 killed Brig-Gen. Aouni Ali, the head of Iraq's main intelligence academy, and two guards in Tal Afar, near the northern city of Mosul, while in Sulaiman Pak, just north of Baghdad, a judge was killed by a magnetic "sticky bomb" attached to his car. The judge, Ahmed al-Bayati, had previously received threats while working as an anti-terror investigator, and had to pay kidnappers a $150,000 ransom after his son was abducted last year. That same day, a roadside bomb killed an army lieutenant and wounded two other soldiers in Heet, northwest of the capital. Iraq has seen a rise in attacks in recent weeks, with January the deadliest month since September, according to a tally, although the level of violence is nowhere near that during the peak of the sectarian war in 2007.
The new attacks come one day after tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims marched in several Iraqi cities, demanding that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki step down. In the western cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, protesters blocked the main highway to Jordan and Syria to perform Friday noon prayers. Others gathered in the main squares of the northern cities of Samarra, Mosul and Kirkuk, and outside a prominent Sunni mosque in Baghdad. (Middle East Online, Feb. 16; Al Jazeera, Feb. 15)