Bombs Kill 16 People in Baghdad

Posted January 9th, 2012 at 4:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Three separate bombings in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killed 16 people and wounded more than 40 others Monday.

Iraqi officials said many of the victims were Shi'ite pilgrims traveling to the holy city of Karbala for an annual ritual.

In the first attack, a roadside bomb killed two people in southern Baghdad. Hours later, eight people died when a car bomb exploded in a western suburb and another six were killed in the northern Shi'ite district of al-Shaab.

Authorities said the attacks appeared to target Shi'ites on the way to Karbala for the observance of Arbaeen, the end of a 40-day mourning period for revered Shi'ite figure, Imam Hussein.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom condemned the wave of attacks and called on the Iraqi government to increase security and bring those responsible to justice.

The group's chairman said that “these attacks seem intended to exacerbate sectarian tensions that are already heightened by the current political crisis, and risk a return to the sectarian violence of 2006 and 2007.”

The escalation of violence against Iraq's majority Shi'ites coincides with tensions in the country's Shi'ite-led unity government. The main Sunni-backed faction, Iraqiya, has boycotted the Cabinet.

Iraqiya accuses Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of monopolizing power in Shi'ite hands. It also objects to a government arrest warrant for Iraq's Sunni Vice President, Tarek al-Hashemi, a member of Iraqiya.

Mr. Maliki has ordered Hashemi's arrest on charges of running a death squad, an allegation the vice president denies. The the arrest warrant was issued last month, as U.S. troops completed a pullout from Iraq, ending an eight-year military presence.

Hashemi fled to northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to avoid arrest. In an interview with VOA's Kurdish service Monday, Hashemi said he is ready to stand trial in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where he believes he can have a fair hearing, but not in Baghdad because he believes politicians will manipulate the proceedings there.