Rapid attacks across Iraq kill around 50 people

Rapid attacks across Iraq kill around 50 people

A rapid series of attacks spread over a wide swath of Iraqi territory killed at least 50 people yesterday, in one of the bloodiest days of violence since U.S. troops pulled out in mid-December.

The apparently coordinated bombings and shootings unfolded over four hours in the capital Baghdad where most of the deaths were and 11 other cities. They struck government offices, restaurants and one in the town of Musayyib hit close to a primary school. At least 225 people were wounded.

It was the latest of a series of large-scale attacks that insurgents have launched every few weeks since the last U.S. troops left Iraq in mid-December at the end of a nearly 10-year war. Shortly after the withdrawal, a major political crisis with sectarian undertones erupted as well when Shiite-dominated authorities sought to arrest Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on allegations he commandeered death squads targeting security forces and government officials. The interior ministry blamed al-Qaeda and affiliated armed groups for the attacks it said were an attempt to show that Iraq’s security situation remained unstable. “The attacks aimed to spark sectarian strife among the Iraqi people, and to prevent the Arab League meeting from being held,” Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi said.

Nationwide, security forces appeared to be targeted in at least 14 separate attacks, including a drive-by shooting in Baghdad that killed six policemen at a checkpoint before dawn. Police patrols in the capital and beyond also were besieged by roadside bombs. Also, a car bomb in Baghdad’s downtown shopping district of Karradah killed nine people and wounded 26. In Musayyib, a car bomb parked on the street between a restaurant and an elementary school killed one person and wounded 62.

Iraqi officials visit Saudi

Meanwhile, a delegation of senior Iraqi officials has visited Saudi Arabia in the latest sign of apparently warming ties between the neighbours, Iraq’s interior ministry said in a statement yesterday. News of the visit came after Shiite-led Iraq said it would approve the nomination of a new ambassador to Baghdad from the Sunni-ruled kingdom -- the first since 1990. The Iraqi delegation was headed by National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayadh, and also included deputy interior minister Adnan al-Assadi, according to the statement, which did not specify the exact dates of the visit.

Compiled from AP, AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff