BAGHDAD, March 30 (Reuters) – A surge of violence in Iraq in the past week demonstrated the ability of al Qaeda to strike virtually anywhere at will with a seemingly limitless supply of explosives and suicide bombers to wreak chaos.

The bombings claimed 300 lives, with one attack triggering mass reprisal killings by Shi’ites, making it the bloodiest week since the launch of a major U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad in mid-February aimed at curbing sectarian violence.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, accused Sunni Islamist al Qaeda on Friday of barbarity and said it was trying “to ignite sectarian violence” between minority Sunnis and majority Shi’ites and derail efforts to unify Iraqis.

Amid fears the country is being dragged ever closer to the brink of all-out civil war, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for restraint, urging Iraqis not to allow themselves to be divided by “evil doers”.


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