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Bombings Across Iraq Kill at Least 55, Wound More Than 225

February 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN:  And we turn to a very bloody day in Iraq, as attacks in Baghdad and more than a dozen other cities from the north to the south left at least 55 people dead and 225 wounded.

The wail of ambulance sirens pierced the air as plumes of smoke rose above Baghdad. The spree of bombings and shootings began during the morning rush hour and lasted for several hours. But the violence wasn’t isolated to the Iraqi capital. A wave of coordinated explosions and other attacks unfolded in other cities around the country.

In Musayyib, to the south of Baghdad, dozens of children at an elementary school were the main victims of a car bomb attack. The blast spewed shards of glass into their classrooms.

MAN (through translator): This explosion is unjustifiable. Here is a primary school. Children were coming to school and nearby there were people shopping in that shopping district.

JEFFREY BROWN:  To the north, in Kirkuk, security forces inspected the wreckage from bombings targeting police patrols. The Interior Ministry blamed al-Qaida, and a member of Baghdad’s City Council agreed. He cited plans for his city to play host to an Arab League summit next month.

MOHAMMED AL-RUBAIEE, Baghdad City Council (through translator): I think the attackers don’t want Iraq to move forward. They don’t want Iraq to reunite with the Arab countries and interact with Arab people. So they impede Iraq’s progress with such acts of violence.

JEFFREY BROWN:  In Washington, the U.S. State Department condemned the violence.

MARK TONER, State Department spokesman: Obviously, these were horrible, even heinous acts that took place today. Frankly, we view these as desperate attempts by terror groups to sow fear and undermine Iraq democracy at what everyone recognizes is really a critical juncture in the Iraqi political process.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The last U.S. troops left Iraq in December, and there’s been a series of large-scale attacks in the weeks since.