December 22, 2011 in Nation/World

Death toll hits 18 in Baghdad blasts

Qassim Abdul-Zahra Associated Press
 

BAGHDAD – A series of blasts this morning in Baghdad killed at least 18 people and injured dozens more in a coordinated attack designed to wreak havoc across the Iraqi capital.

The blasts were the worst violence to hit the country since a political crisis between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite factions erupted this weekend. The political spat, which pits Iraq’s Shiite prime minister against the highest-ranking Sunni political leader, has raised fears that Iraq’s sectarian wounds will be reopened.

Iraqi officials said at least nine blasts went off early this morning in neighborhoods around the city.

The worst attack was in the al-Amal neighborhood where seven people were killed in a blast that appeared to target rescuers and officials who came to the scene after a previous explosion. At least four people were killed in one western Baghdad neighborhood when two roadside bombs exploded.

All the information came from police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi of running a hit squad that targeted government officials. Al-Maliki is also pushing for a vote of no-confidence against another Sunni politician, the deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Many Sunnis fear that this is part of a wider campaign to go after Sunni political figures in general and shore up Shiite control across the country at a critical time when all American troops have left Iraq.

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