'Qaeda' attacks kill 39 in Iraq, wound over 250

AFP , Thursday 23 Feb 2012

Iraq continues to be riven by car bombs, shootings in wake of US military withdrawal from country late last year

A man walks past the remains of a vehicle used in a bomb attack in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Thursday, (Photo: Reuters).

A wave of attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda killed at least 39 people on Thursday in what Iraq's parliament speaker said was an attempt to derail an Arab League summit planned for the end of March.

Security officials and medical sources said more than 250 people were wounded in the attacks, which hit six different provinces and came just days after a suicide blast near a Baghdad police academy.

"The terrorist Al-Qaeda organisation is trying to send messages to its supporters that it is still operating on Iraqi soil and that it has the capability to strike in the capital and the cities and both big and small regions," said a statement on the interior ministry's website.

Attacks occurred in religiously-mixed Baghdad in central Iraq and Babil to its south, Sunni-majority Diyala, Salaheddin, and Nineveh province north of the capital.

Violence also hit Kirkuk, an oil-rich province that the autonomous Kurdistan region wants to incorporate against Baghdad's wishes.

At least 16 car bombs and eight roadside bombs were set off on Thursday, and there were several shootings and a mortar attack.

It was the deadliest day in Iraq since 14 January, when 53 people were killed in a suicide bombing just outside the southern port city of Basra.

Parliament speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi said the attacks were aimed at derailing the Arab League summit to be hosted by Baghdad at the end of March and a planned national conference aimed at political reconciliation.

The attacks "aim to stoke the fires of strife among the sons of the Iraqi people, and to make the holding of the Arab summit and the national meeting fail, and give a clear sign of the involvement of foreign parties trying to export their internal problems to Iraq," Al-Nujaifi said in a statement.

Most of Thursday's violence was centred on Baghdad.

A car bomb in the northern Shiite shrine district of Kadhimiyah killed six people and wounded 15, an interior ministry official said, while gunmen attacked a police checkpoint across the Tigris River in Adhamiyah, killing six people and wounding three.

A car bomb exploded in the central Karrada neighbourhood near a police checkpoint, killing one person and wounding 11, followed by another that killed one and wounded six.

Two roadside bombs and an attack by gunmen against a police checkpoint killed two people and wounded nine in southwest Baghdad.

Other attacks in south Baghdad killed four people and wounded 20, and a car bomb in Mansur in the capital's west killed two and wounded five.

A roadside bomb wounded five people in Taji to the north of Baghdad.

In Diyala province, north of the capital, two car bombs exploded in the provincial capital Baquba, killing three people and wounding eight, while a roadside bomb killed one person, a police major said.

Gunmen killed two people and wounded a third west of Baquba, while a roadside bomb east of the city wounded a man and his wife.

Raed Al-Juburi, the head of the Salaheddin province health directorate, said eight people were killed and 56 wounded in attacks in the province, including in a key refinery town.

In Babil, a car bomb killed one person and wounded five in the provincial capital Hilla, a police officer said.

Another car bomb exploded near a restaurant in Al-Mussayeb, also south of the capital, a police officer said. It killed a girl who was around ten years old and wounded 85 other people, most of them primary school pupils, a hospital official said.

A roadside bomb in Al-Nil, north of Hilla, wounded seven people, including three police, the policeman added.

Two car bombs targeting police in the northern oil hub of Kirkuk wounded 25 people, security and medical sources said.

In Mosul, the capital of the northern province of Nineveh, a man was killed in a mortar attack, according to Police First Lieutenant Mohammed Al-Juburi.

And two car bombs in Nineveh targeted Asiacell mobile provider towers but did not result in any casualties, another police officer said.

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