Iraq ups security as al-Qaeda claims blasts

Iraq ups security as al-Qaeda claims blasts

Key routes in Baghdad were locked down yesterday as al-Qaeda’s front group in Iraq claimed responsibility for a wave of deadly blasts targeting security tasked with protecting a landmark Arab summit next week.

The tightened measures came a day after nationwide gun and bomb attacks killed 50 people and left 255 others wounded on the ninth anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In a statement posted on a jihadist forum, the Islamic State of Iraq declared it was behind the attacks against several “official posts and security and military posts” in the country. “The lions [jihadists] of Al-Sunna ... of the Islamic State of Iraq simultaneously attacked the authorities’ security plans ... for the meeting of Arab tyrants in Baghdad,” said the statement dated March 20.

Attacks occurred despite unprecedented levels of security in Baghdad as part of preparations for the first meeting of the Arab League to be held in Baghdad in 20 years on March 27-29. Yesterday’s heightened security measures worsened already choking traffic in Baghdad. Agence France-Presse journalists reported full or partial closures of key routes in the capital, while roads that remained open saw increased numbers of checkpoints and security forces.

The attacks were swiftly condemned by Turkey, the United Nations, the United States and Britain. “We strongly condemn the bombs that killed and wounded scores,” said a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Anatolia news agency reported. The statement said Turkey would continue to act in solidarity with the Iraqi people in combating terrorism.

Middle East,