At­tacks that killed 46 in 8 cities be­fore sum­mit ap­pear con­nected

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY SAMEER N. YACOUB

BAGH­DAD| A tor­rent of bomb­ings and shoot­ings ripped across eight Iraqi cities on Tues­day, tar­get­ing po­lice and Shi­ite pil­grims and killing 46 peo­ple.

The deadly wave un­der­mined the gov­ern­ment’s hopes for sta­bil­ity ahead of next week’s meet­ing of the Arab world’s top lead­ers.

The Iraqi wing of al Qaeda said it was be­hind at least one of the at­tacks near Bagh­dad’s heav­ily guarded Green Zone.

A state­ment on a mil­i­tant web­site said the group tar­geted the of­fice that will over­see se­cu­rity for the up­com­ing Arab League sum­mit — the first time the meet­ing is set to be held in Bagh­dad in more than a gen­er­a­tion.

“Death is ap­proach­ing you, when you least ex­pect it,” said the Is­lamic state of Iraq, a lo­cal front group for al Qaeda.

Au­thor­i­ties have feared al Qaeda or its Sunni sym­pa­thiz­ers would try to thwart this year’s Arab League sum­mit. Plans for Bagh­dad to host the meet­ing last year were post­poned, in part be­cause of con­cerns about Iraq’s se­cu­rity.

In all, eight cities were hit Tues­day in what ap­peared to be co­or­di­nated at­tacks against po­lice and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. More than 200 peo­ple were wounded in a gloomy re­minder of the vi­o­lence that has sown chaos across Iraq since the U.S. in­va­sion ex­actly nine years ago.

One of the dead­li­est strikes came in the Shi­ite holy city of Kar­bala, where of­fi­cials said two car bombs ex­ploded in a crowded shop­ping and res­tau­rant area. Thir­teen peo­ple were killed and an­other 50 were wounded in that as­sault, said lo­cal pro­vin­cial coun­cil mem­ber Hus­sein Shad­han al-aboudi.

Five Ira­nian pil­grims were among the dead. Lo­cated 50 miles south of Bagh­dad, Kar­bala is a des­ti­na­tion for thou­sands of Shi­ite pil­grims from around the world who visit the golden shrines of two revered imams each day.

“The in­ten­tion of these at­tacks is to desta­bi­lize the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Kar­bala and other Iraqi cities and to shake the peo­ple’s con­fi­dence on the gov­ern­ment,” Mr. al-aboudi said.

“It seems that the ter­ror­ists want to abort the up­com­ing Arab Sum­mit in Bagh­dad. The mes­sage is di­rected to the Arab lead­ers that Iraq is not safe enough to be vis­ited.”

The wave of vi­o­lence be­gan af­ter dawn Tues­day.

Mil­i­tants blew up the house of a po­lice of­fi­cial in the western city of Fal­lu­jah, planted bombs near the for­ti­fied Green Zone and shot up a se­cu­rity check­point in Bagh­dad, set off an ex­plo­sion at a po­lice sta­tion in the north­ern city of Kirkuk and at­tacked restau­rants and shop­ping ar­eas in two south­ern towns.

Thir­teen peo­ple, most of them po­lice­men, were killed in Kirkuk, said Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir. An ad­di­tional 59 were wounded. Kirkuk is 180 miles north of Bagh­dad.

Of­fi­cials have been brac­ing for at­tacks in the run-up to the Arab League sum­mit, dur­ing which the Shi­ite-led gov­ern­ment hopes to show­case Iraq’s im­proved se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity since the sec­tar­ian fight­ing a few years ago that al­most pulled the coun­try into civil war.

In­sur­gents are seek­ing to be­lie Bagh­dad’s bet­ter im­age, and of­fi­cials ex­pect more at­tacks as hun­dreds of dig­ni­taries and jour­nal­ists con­verge on the cap­i­tal next week.

Two of Tues­day’s at­tacks hit right out­side the Green Zone where the sum­mit will be held.

Last week, the gov­ern­ment said it would de­ploy an un­prece­dented num­ber of se­cu­rity forces to pro­tect the cap­i­tal for the sum­mit. An es­ti­mated 26,000 po­lice and sol­diers — in­clud­ing more than 4,000 from Iraq’s north and south — are ex­pected to be de­ployed in Bagh­dad.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple in­spect the scene of a car-bomb at­tack in Kirkuk on Tues­day. Bomb­ings and shoot­ings in eight cities across Iraq killed 46 and wounded more than 200 as Bagh­dad pre­pared to host this year’s sum­mit of the Arab world’s top lead­ers.

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