Updated at 3:15 p.m. EST, Dec. 22, 2011
A coordinated series of bombings shattered the peace in Baghdad, shortly after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ratcheted up tensions between his government and Sunni politicians. Despite international calls for prudence, Maliki is now targeting another senior Sunni politician for harassment. At least 86 Iraqis were killed and 186 more wounded in today’s carnage.
A series of at least four car bombs, ten roadside bombs, and a rocket attack shook Baghdad, killing at least 74 people and wounding over 180 more. According to the Interior Ministry, the attacks left at least 63 dead and over 194 injured. Large-scale attacks like these often spark conflicting figures. The head of the Iraqiya party, Ayad Allawi, said the Baghdad attacks were the direct result of a weak security system that has been tasked to disrupt the political system instead of chasing real terrorists.
The alternate task that Allawi is referring to is the harassment of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Sunni rivals. The premier now accuses Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi of supporting political assassinations in Falluja. He is the third major Sunni politician to be targeted by Maliki this week, after Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Issawi was also among Hashemi’s group that was briefly delayed by security forces at Baghdad airport before Hashemi fled to Iraqi Kurdistan.
Yesterday, the premier had warned other dissenting politicians that he would reveal dossiers implicating them in terrorist acts, and he appears to be fulfilling that promise with the Issawi revelations. Those files would likely come from the Integrity Commission, the agency charged with rooting out corruption. The commission, however, was basically taken over by Maliki earlier this year. The ousted head of the commission alleged that Maliki was using the commission to fabricate false dossiers against political rivals. Not coincidentally, the most significant of today’s attacks targeted the offices of this commission. The building was severely damaged.
The political turmoil not only comes on the heels of the U.S. withdrawal of troops but also a series of requests for semi-autonomy from various provinces. It was, perhaps, last week’s declaration by Diyala province that triggered the Maliki government’s apparent vendetta against Sunnis. Today, the Turkmen minority in Kirkuk again demanded region status for their area.
Among the Baghdad districts bombed were Allawi, Karrada, Bab al-Muadham Shabb, Shula, Adhamiya, Bayaa, Amil, Amin, Doura, Abu Dsheer, Yarmouk, Harthiya and Ghazaliya. Many of the bombs struck Shi’ite neighborhoods, pointing the finger at Sunni insurgents. Several more bombs were defused.
At least 25 people were killed and 62 more were injured during just one attack, where a suicide bomber used an ambulance to clear a security checkpoint and reach the offices of the Integrity Commission in Karrada. Also, Baghdad Operations Command banned the press from taking pictures of the damaged building. Elsewhere, sixteen construction workers were killed in Allawi. Another device, this one in Waziriya, targeted the motorcade of a central bank official.
The body of a blindfolded young man was discovered in Kirkuk.
Gunmen severely wounded a Sahwa member in Hilla.