Civilian casualties continue to mount in Iraq as more than 40 people were killed and dozens more hurt in bombing attacks, urged on by the possible return of an elusive and possibly mythical terrorist leader.
The latest attacks came just a day after two car bombs killed 16 and injured 30 near Shiite mosques in Mosul, and a suicide bomber killed three and injured 20 at a wedding party.
In all, two suicide bombers and a series of improvised explosives devastated areas in Baghdad and the northern city of Tal Afar on Thursday, following a taped statement from the leader of a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In it, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi called on Sunnis in the region to fight Shiites and American troops, the The New York Times reported.
The 40-minute statement was released on the Internet and attributed to al-Baghdadi, the supposed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. Iraqi authorities claimed to have captured him in April, but U.S. officials believe he is a mythical character.
In the deadliest attack, two suicide bombers worked together to kill at least 34 people and injure 70 in Tal Afar, a city in Niveveh. The first bomber, wearing a police uniform and carrying a radio and gun, knocked on the door of an investigator in the anti-terrorism police force in Tal Afar. When the officer opened the door, the bomber detonated the explosives on his belt, killing the officer, his wife, and son.
When crowds gathered after the attack, the second bomber detonated his explosive belt.
In Baghdad, seven people were killed and dozens more wounded as make shift bombs exploded near a market in Sadr City.
The voice on the tape attempted to recruit new members for their organization.
"Come back to the real jihadists,' Baghdadi said. "We are not going to hurt you. We are friends. We have always wished you a great life and to go to heaven after you die."
American officials have thought Baghdadi was created by Al-Qaeda merely to give the organization a face. If the voice is Baghdadi, it would be the terrorist groups first response since the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq began last month.
In a statement posted on his web site, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani condemned the attacks and said the terrorists were failing in their attempt to demoralize Iraqi security and its civilians.
Some 130,000 U.S. troops remain as Iraqi's have had mixed feeling about the departing troops. Some are rejoicing while others are concerned about Iraq's ability to protect its citizens.
"Our security forces are still weak, with poor intelligence," said Saeed Rahim, a government employee in Baghdad. "Deploying more unqualified troops into the streets does not necessarily lead to better results."