Blasts Kill 63 in Iraq as Political Crisis Continues

Posted December 22nd, 2011 at 1:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Iraqi officials say more than a dozen bomb blasts hit the capital, Baghdad, killing at least 63 people and wounding more than 180 others in the worst violence in months.

The apparently coordinated blasts from car bombs, roadside bombs and sticky bombs struck across the city Thursday, just days after U.S. troops finished their withdrawal from the country.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the timing of the bombings confirm the “political nature” of the targets.

Hiba Hisham, who works in the Baghdad bureau of Al Hurrah television, says Iraqis have been fearing escalating violence with the American absence.

“A lot of Iraqis were afraid of the withdrawal of American troops,” she told VOA in a telephone interview. “They felt like the Iraqi army was still not ready to take over the security file…but of course nobody expected over 12 bombings in one day.”

The attacks come during a political crisis, as the Shi'ite-led government pursues the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges that he plotted to kill other government officials.

Hashemi, a Sunni, said Wednesday the allegations are politically motivated by the prime minister, who Hashemi says wanted to consolidate power when U.S. troops left this month.

Hashemi told VOA that Prime Minister Maliki controls the security and intelligence forces and does not allow other elected officials to interfere. The vice president fled to the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq to escape a warrant for his arrest issued this week.

Iraq's Interior Ministry says three of Hashemi's bodyguards confessed they planted bombs targeting Iraqi government and security officials with Hashemi's backing.

The alleged plot and a call last week by Mr. Maliki for a no-confidence vote in parliament against another leading Sunni politician, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, have heightened political tension in Iraq.

Both Hashemi and Mutlaq are leaders of Iraq's mostly Sunni Iraqiya political bloc, part of the coalition government. Iraqiya's members walked out of parliament on Saturday, accusing Mr. Maliki of seizing power.