Series of bombings in Baghdad area kill dozens

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm •  Published: February 17, 2013
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There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but similar ones have been orchestrated by Sunni extremists, such as al-Qaida's local affiliate. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, favors large-scale, coordinated attacks. It considers Shiite Muslims to be heretics and accuses them of being too closely aligned with neighboring Shiite powerhouse Iran.

As sectarian strife mounts, protesters drawn overwhelmingly from Iraq's Sunni community have been staging weekly demonstrations and sit-ins since late December to rally against the government, which is led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The protesters have rejected calls for violence and distance themselves from extremist groups such as al-Qaida.

There are also concerns that Sunni insurgents could step up attacks ahead of provincial elections scheduled for April 20. The ballot would be the first country-wide vote since the U.S. troop withdrawal more than a year ago.

Al-Maliki and the U.S. Embassy condemned the attacks. So did the United Nations envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, who said "all Iraqi leaders have a responsibility to stand up against these atrocious crimes."

Later in the day, gunmen opened fire on a military post near the western city of Fallujah, killing one civilian and wounding five people, including two soldiers, according to Fallujah police. The city and nearby Ramadi have been the heart of the Sunni protests.

The blasts came a day after a suicide bomber pretending to ask for help assassinated Brig. Gen. Ali Aouni, the head of the Iraq Defense Ministry's intelligence academy, and three of his bodyguards in the northern city of Tal Afar.

Sunday's attacks brought to more than 100 the number of people killed in violent attacks in Iraq since the start of the month. A total of 178 were killed in January attacks, according to an Associated Press count.

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Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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