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50 dead in Iraq attacks ahead of Arab summit
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) March 20, 2012

Deadliest Iraq attacks since US pullout
Baghdad (AFP) March 20, 2012 - A wave of attacks in 18 cities across Iraq on Tuesday killed 49 people and wounded 250, officials said.

Here is a timeline of the biggest attacks since US forces completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011:



- 22: Coordinated attacks in Baghdad kill 60 people and wound nearly 200, while violence elsewhere in Iraq claims another seven lives.



- 5: Attacks against Shiite Muslims in Baghdad and southern Iraq kill 68 people and wound more than 100.

- 14: A suicide bomber kills 53 people and wounds 137 in an attack on Shiite pilgrims on the outskirts of the southern port city of Basra.

- 27: A suicide bomber detonates an explosives-packed car at a funeral outside a Baghdad hospital, killing 31 people and wounding 60.


- 19: A suicide bomber detonates a car bomb in front of a Baghdad police academy, killing 15 people and wounding 21.

- 23: A wave of attacks nationwide, blamed on Al-Qaeda, kills 42 people and wounds more than 250.


- 5: Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen, some wearing police uniforms, rampage through the western city of Haditha in a pre-dawn shooting spree that leaves 27 policemen dead.

- 20: A wave of attacks in more than a dozen cities kills 49 people and wounds 250. The deadliest strike Karbala and Kirkuk, with bombings in each city killing 13 people, while a car bomb outside the foreign ministry in Baghdad kills three.

A wave of attacks killed 50 people in more than a dozen Iraqi cities on Tuesday, the anniversary of the US-led invasion of the country and just days before Baghdad hosts a landmark Arab summit.

The violence, which left 255 people wounded, bore the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda, which typically tries to launch coordinated nationwide mass-casualty bombing campaigns.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, however.

The attacks were swiftly condemned internationally, with United Nations envoy Martin Kobler describing them as "atrocious", White House spokesman Jay Carney adding that the US "strongly condemn" the violence, and Britain's Middle East minister Alistair Burt slamming them as "cowardly."

Bombings and shootings rocked 18 towns and cities spanning the northern oil hub of Kirkuk and the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, from 7:00 am (0400 GMT), in Iraq's deadliest violence in more than two months.

"We lost everything," said Mohammed Sobheh, a policeman wounded in the Kirkuk attack. "Not one of my colleagues is alive; they were all killed."

"I will never forget their screams as long as I live."

In central Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in the car park opposite the foreign ministry, despite dramatically heightened security in the capital in preparation for the March 27-29 Arab League summit.

At least three people were killed and nine wounded, officials said, underscoring concerns over Iraq's ability to maintain security for the meeting.

Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi condemned the "brutal criminal" attacks, and said they were part of efforts by Al-Qaeda to "derail the Arab summit, and keep Iraq feeling the effects of violence and destruction."

Following the attacks, the government declared a week of public holidays from March 25 to April 1.

Coupled with Kurdish New Year festival Nowruz on Wednesday and the weekly Muslim day of prayer on Friday, much of Iraq will be largely closed until after the summit.

Security forces have mooted the possibility of imposing a city-wide curfew on March 29, when Arab leaders are expected in Baghdad.

Tuesday's deadliest attacks were in Kirkuk and Karbala, where a total of 26 people died.

In ethnically mixed Kirkuk, a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle at a police building, killing 13 and wounding 60, according to Karim Wali, director of the city's hospital. The vast majority of casualties were police officers.

The explosion, which was followed minutes later by a smaller car bomb, also badly damaged dozens of police cars and nearby homes.

In Karbala, two roadside blasts at the entrance to the city killed 13 people and wounded 48, according to provincial health spokesman Jamal Mehdi.

Karbala police's Major Alaa Abbas gave the same casualty toll in the city, home to the shrines of revered Shiite leaders Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas.

Hours before the foreign ministry attack, a car bomb detonated by a suicide attacker in the centre of the capital killed five people and wounded 28, officials said.

An early-morning gun attack on a Baghdad church also left three police dead.

Bombs in Hilla, south of Baghdad, Ramadi, west of the capital, and Baquba, in central Iraq, killed five people and wounded 44, officials said.

A later roadside bombing in Ramadi targeting Anbar provincial Governor Qassim Mohammed Abed killed one person and wounded eight, but Abed was unhurt.

Police said separate gun and bomb attacks in Salaheddin province, north of the capital, killed six, including a city councillor, and wounded 16. Gunmen also killed a member of the Shabak minority in the main northern city of Mosul.

Bombings elsewhere in the country wounded 42 people, and security forces said they defused six more car bombs.

Tuesday's violence was Iraq's deadliest day since January 14, when 53 people were killed in a suicide bombing outside the southern port of Basra.

The attacks come on the ninth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, which ousted Saddam Hussein.

Next week's Arab summit is the first meeting of the 22-nation bloc to be held in the Iraqi capital since Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Officials insist Iraq's forces are capable of maintaining security for the summit, but admit they may need to effectively shut down Baghdad to do so.

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Iraq PM 'monopolising power:' Kurdish leader
Baghdad (AFP) March 20, 2012 - Kurd leader Massud Barzani hinted on Tuesday at a possible break with Iraq's unity government, complaining that premier Nuri al-Maliki was monopolising power and building an army loyal only to him.

His remarks raised the rhetoric between his autonomous regional government in Arbil and the central government in Baghdad, with several key disputes festering between the two sides.

Barzani said the partnership that built a national unity government formed at a meeting he had hosted was now "completely non-existent and has become meaningless."

"There is an attempt to establish a one-million-strong army whose loyalty is only to a single person," Barzani, president of Kurdistan, said in a speech in Arbil, according to an English transcript.

He claimed that Maliki and the government were "waiting to get F-16 combat planes to examine its chances again with the peshmerga (Kurdish militia)," referring to a government order for 36 warplanes from the United States.

"Where in the world can the same person be the prime minister, the chief of staff of the armed forces, the minister of defence, the minister of interior, the chief of intelligence and the head of the national security council?" he asked.

Barzani said that while he was committed to an alliance with Iraq's majority Shiites, he was not committed to one with Maliki.

The premier has yet to appoint permanent ministers of defence and interior, more than two years after parliamentary elections.

Kurdish MPs hold nearly a fifth of the seats in parliament, and Barzani's Kurdish Alliance bloc has five cabinet posts in the national unity government formed in November 2010.

Barzani continued: "We are committed to our alliance with the Shiites but not with this group of people who have monopolised power and with their policies have even marginalised other Shiites."

"It is time to say enough is enough. The current status of affairs in unacceptable to us and I call on all Iraqi political leaders to urgently try to find a solution. Otherwise, we will return to our people and will decide on whatever course of action that our people deem appropriate."

The central government and Kurdish regional authorities have been locked in protracted disputes over oil contracts with foreign oil firms and the status of a swathe of disputed territory around the northern oil hub of Kirkuk.

The Kurdistan region has signed around 40 contracts with international companies on a production-sharing basis without seeking the express approval of the central government's oil ministry.

The national oil ministry, meanwhile, has awarded energy contracts to international companies on the basis of a per-barrel service fee. It has also refused to sign deals with any firm that has agreed a contract with Kurdistan.

Arbil also wants Kirkuk and the disputed tract of land to be incorporated into its autonomous three-province region, but officials in Baghdad have steadfastly rejected those demands.

That dispute is regarded by diplomats as one of the greatest threats to Iraq's long-term stability.


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