At least 51 people have been killed in a string of explosions targeting police in more than 10 Iraqi cities, government and hospital sources told Reuters news agency.
Nearly 250 people have also been injured in the attacks, which hit the Iraqi capital Baghdad and other cities in the country’s north and south. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. The deadliest attack occurred in Iraq’s southern city of Kerbala: a twin explosion there claimed at least 13 lives, wounding 50 people, the agency reports. In another city, Kirkuk, some 290 kilometers north of Baghdad, an explosion near the police headquarters killed nine and injured more than 40 people. In central Baghdad, four people have been killed and over 20 injured by a suicide car bomber. The attacks also affected the Iraqi cities of Baiji, Samarra, Tuz Khurmato, Daquq and Dhuluiya, all located to north of Baghdad, as well as Hilla, Latifiya and Mahmudiyain the south. Police reportedly managed to defuse several bombs in cities of Baquba and Falluja.Most of the blasts targeted police checkpoints and patrols. The bombings are believed to be connected to the three-day summit of the Arab League scheduled for next Tuesday in Baghdad. The meeting is seen as Iraq’s debut in the regional stage after the withdrawal of the American troops in December.Baghdad has made major investments into security ahead of the summit, with up to 100 thousand police and soldiers expected to be deployed there. The Arab League meeting is the first to be held in Iraq in over 20 years.The attacks also coincide with the ninth anniversary since the US and its allies commenced their military operation in Iraq, leading to the overthrow of the country’s leader Saddam Hussein in March 2003. The US claimed that Hussein had links with Al-Qaeda and had weapons of mass destruction, which the allies failed to find in the country.Even after the US has officially withdrawn its troops from Iraq, there are a lot of Iraqis from different layers of society who still see their country as occupied by foreign forces and are trying to remove those occupants by any means, Curtis Doebbler, an international human rights lawyer and peace activist, told RT.“Since that time, because the government has not been able to exercise control over many parts of the country, it is very fertile territory for different types of terrorist organizations to then settle in and to be able to carry out violent attacks,” Doebbler said.As Iraq effectively remains under occupation there will be no change there until not only the soldiers but also all the private contractors leave the country, believes anti-war activist Michael Raddie.
“We may have seen the withdrawal of combat troops but there are still tens of thousands of what Western media would refer to as private contractors. But we all know that these are paid mercenaries, hired killers. And it’s in their interests, and it’s in the interest of the elites around the world to keep this conflict going,” he told RT.
“The current wave of violence is just a modus operandi of whoever is behind this. We know that the people behind this are the people who want to instigate regime change in places like Libya, like Syria. Iran is obviously next on the list.”
Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a bomb attack in Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, March 20, 2012. (Reuters / Ako Rasheed)
Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a bomb attack in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, March 20, 2012. (Reuters / Ako Rasheed)