BAGHDAD — Al-Qaeda has come roaring back in Iraq since U.S. troops left in late 2011 and now looks stronger than it has in years.
The terror group has shown it is capable of carrying out mass-casualty attacks several times a month, driving the death toll in Iraq to the highest level in half a decade. The group sees each attack as a way to cultivate an atmosphere of chaos that weakens the Shiite-led government’s authority.
Recent prison breaks have bolstered al-Qaeda’s ranks, while feelings of Sunni marginalization and the chaos caused by the civil war in neighboring Syria are fueling its comeback.
The pace of the killing accelerated after a deadly crackdown by security forces on a camp for Sunni protesters in the northern town of Hawija in April.
United Nations figures show 712 people died violently in Iraq that month, at the time the most since 2008.
The monthly death toll hasn’t been that low since. September saw 979 killed.
Al-Qaeda does not have a monopoly on violence in Iraq. Other Sunni militants also carry out attacks, as do Shiite militias that are remobilizing as the violence escalates.
But al-Qaeda’s car bombs and suicide attacks account for the bulk of the bloodshed.
At least 42 people were killed Sunday in new wave of bombings in mostly Shiite-majority cities.
The group earlier this year renamed itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, highlighting its cross-border ambitions.
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