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The scene of a car bomb attack in Kirkuk today.
The scene of a car bomb attack in Kirkuk today.
Image: AP Photo/Emad Matti/PA Images

46 killed in bombings and shootings across Iraq

Civilians and security forces attacked in several cities ahead of Arab League summit in Baghdad.
Mar 20th 2012, 11:07 AM 870 1

Updated at 11am

OFFICIALS SAY THAT attacks across Iraq have killed 46 people and wounded more than 200 in a spate of violence that was dreaded in the days before Baghdad hosts the Arab world’s top leaders.

The attacks struck at security forces and Shiite pilgrims — two favorite targets for Sunni insurgents who officials believe are trying to thwart next week’s Arab League summit.

The death toll continued to rise today as officials reported attacks on police and government officials in eight cities.

The deadliest strike hit the holy Shiite city of Karbala, where officials said two car bombs exploded in a crowded shopping and restaurant area. At least 13 people were killed and another 50 were wounded in that attack, said local provincial council member Hussein Shadhan al-Aboudi.

Karbala, 80km south of Baghdad, is a destination for thousands of Shiite pilgrims from around the world who visit the golden shrines of two revered imams each day.

Al-Aboudi immediately blamed the attacks on al-Qaida, the terror network that officials believe is behind the recent violence with the aim to have the Arab League’s summit in Baghdad next week canceled for the second year in a row.

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

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

Attacks today in Baghdad, the northern city of Kirkuk and southern towns largely appeared to target police forces.

A mid-morning car bomb exploded as the head of Baghdad’s provincial council drove by. He escaped the explosion, but it killed police and passers-by.

Saman Majid, a cameraman for the Kirkuk police department said he had just arrived at work when the bomb outside the station exploded. He said he was wounded by small shrapnel that hit his head and ran to the Kirkuk General Hospital for treatment instead of waiting for an ambulance.

“I quickly got out of my car to see burned bodies trapped inside the cars,” he said. “Dozens of cars were on fire. It was a scene from hell, where there is only a huge fire and dead people and nothing else.”

Officials who confirmed the casualties spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release the information.

Summit

Officials have been bracing for attacks in the run-up to the annual Arab League summit in Baghdad, where the 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.

The summit was initially supposed to be held last year but was postponed in part because of concerns about Iraq’s security.

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.

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Associated Press

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