WASHINGTON: The United States denounced a wave of violence across Iraq which left 111 people dead Monday, saying such attacks were "cowardly" and "reprehensible," especially during the month of Ramazan.
"We strongly condemn these attacks which took place today... in Iraq. The targeting of innocents is always cowardly," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"It's particularly reprehensible during this holy month of Ramazan," she said of the deadliest day of violence in Iraq in over two years.
The White House said the attacks - 28 incidents in 19 cities, in which 111 people were killed and at least 235 wounded, according to Iraqi officials - showed that "Iraq remains a violent place," but is not as bad as it was.
The violence, which came after al Qaeda warned it would seek to retake territory, shattered a relative calm in the lead-up to Saturday's start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramazan.
"I would like to say it's unusual," Nuland said. "Unfortunately, it is not unusual that we have seen terrorists exploit the holy month, exploit the peaceful efforts by Iraqis to worship, to commit acts of terror."
She insisted however that Iraqi forces were up to the task of maintaining security in the country, following the US troop withdrawal in December.
She also slammed "the horrific tactics of al Qaeda in Iraq, who... during this month of Ramazan are making efforts to call on Sunnis to turn against their government, to assassinate judges and investigators."
But Nuland insisted that those behind the attacks "would fail."
"We continue to provide appropriate security, support to the Iraqis based on their requests, in terms of equipping and training and that kind of thing, and we will continue to do that," she said.
"But in general, the position of the Iraqi government is that they want to be responsible for their own security, that they are up to the task of dealing with these kinds of things," Nuland added.
The White House echoed Nuland's comments. "There's no question that Iraq remains a violent place and we strongly condemn the attacks," said White House spokesman Jay Carney aboard Air Force One.
"It is also the case that Iraq is not nearly as violent a place as it was," he insisted.
"Thanks to the enormous sacrifice of US military personnel, Iraqi security forces have been trained up and have the capacity to deal with internal security, which was in fact what the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people wanted," Carney added.
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