Attacks Across Iraq Kill 46 Ahead of Arab Summit

Posted March 20th, 2012 at 3:55 pm (UTC-5)
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A wave of near simultaneous suicide attacks and car bombings in eight Iraqi cities killed at least 46 people and wounded more than 200 Tuesday, just days before Baghdad is to host the first Arab League summit in a generation.

Bombs struck Shi'ite pilgrims in the holy city of Karbala, rocked the northern oil hub of Kirkuk and targeted security forces and government officials in Baghdad and surrounding cities.

The Associated Press quotes the Iraqi wing of al-Qaida as saying it was behind the bombing outside the Foreign Ministry. There were no other claims of responsibility.

Iraqi officials said the security cordon around Baghdad seems to have worked, as the majority of attacks took place outside the capital, far from where the Arab leaders are set to gather.

Next week's Arab League summit is the first to be held in Baghdad since March 1990 – less than five months before former dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Sanctions, including a no-fly zone over Iraq, and two wars made Baghdad an impossible site for the gathering until recently.

There were no immediate reports from the League's 22 member states that the meeting would be postponed, as happened last year. Government and security officials have warned for weeks that al-Qaida and Sunni sympathizers would try to thwart the summit by sowing fear about Baghdad's stability.

Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, called for stepped up security as the summit approaches. He said the repeated attacks show insurgents' intentions “to foil the Arab summit in Baghdad, in order to keep Iraq under the threat of violence and destruction.”