A series of bombs in and around the Iraqi capital killed 10 people today, and an intelligence official warned of a campaign to undermine security before a much anticipated meeting of Arab heads of state in March.
The senior Iraqi official also said insurgents appeared to be taking advantage of the government's delay in appointing a new interior minister, who runs the nation's security forces. The three-hour drumbeat of explosions began around 7 am in Baghdad's rush hour at the start of the local workweek. Besides the dead, 34 people were wounded.
The attacks appeared to involve roadside bombs, suicide bombers and car bombs. No group immediately claimed responsibility. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is still weighing who to name to the nation's top defence, interior and national security posts, saying he wants to ensure they are filled by apolitical candidates.
The intelligence official said insurgents were seeking to seize on the delay. He also called the bombings a message to the world that Iraq is not ready to provide security for the Arab League when Baghdad hosts the annual two-day summit, beginning March 23, for the first time in 20 years.
Hosting the summit would be an important step for Iraq to not only showcase its return to stability after years of violence, but a chance to mend frayed ties with its Arab neighbours. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media. Police said at least two of today's attacks in the capital involved car bombs that apparently targeted police patrols, killing two policemen and a bystander, while two other people were killed when the offices of the government sewage department in downtown was bombed.
In the city's northern Kazimiyah suburb, another bomb exploded as a bus of Iranian pilgrims drove by, killing one and injuring nine. Shiite pilgrims make daily visits to the gold domed shrine of Kazimiyah, where two of Shiism's revered imams are buried.
It was not immediately clear if the blast was caused by a car bomb or a suicide bomber. Just north of Baghdad, in the town of Taji, a car bomb killed a farmer and his son heading to a nearby market to sell their crops. In the nearby town of Tarmiyah, once an insurgent stronghold, a bomb planted outside a school went off, killing two young boys. The casualties were all confirmed by hospital workers, and all officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media.