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In Iraq, Wave of Coordinated Bombings Kills at Least 70, Wounds 200

December 22, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: The capital of Iraq was plunged back into death and chaos today. At least 16 bombings shook Baghdad, leaving more than 70 dead and well over 200 wounded. The attackers used a variety of tactics to strike all over the city. It was the worst outbreak of violence in months and came just days after the last U.S. troops withdrew.

We have a report from Inigo Gilmore of Independent Television News.

INIGO GILMORE, Independent Television News: Thick plumes of smoke and the wail of ambulance sirens signal the onset of a massive barrage of coordinated attacks.

The first blasts ripped through Baghdad just as Iraqis were heading to work early this morning. Both car bombs and improvised explosives were used, hitting markets, grocery stores, schools and government buildings. The attacks sent a shudder of terror through the capital as one neighborhood after another was targeted.

At least 18 people were killed here, in the upmarket Karrada neighborhood, where the bomber drove an ambulance laden with explosives.

HAIDER, resident of Baghdad (through translator): We are innocent people. What have we done wrong? What crime have we committed? If they are unable to run the government, they should just leave it.

INIGO GILMORE: There is growing anger at the country’s political leaders, as a crisis threatens to cripple Iraq’s government and spill over into a new round of sectarian bloodshed.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for today’s attacks, but they were mostly directed at Shia neighborhoods, suggesting a Sunni insurgent group could be to blame. Long-fractious relations between Iraq’s senior Shia and Sunni political leaders are now close to complete meltdown.

The country’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia, this week accused the country’s Sunni vice president of organizing bomb attacks against political targets and using his bodyguards in hit squads.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, Iraqi prime minister (through translator): This is a criminal case, a case of blood and souls. So, myself and the relatives of victims will not allow this case to be politicized. He should face justice. Either he will refute the case or he will be convicted. We will not bargain in this case.

INIGO GILMORE: The vice president’s bodyguards have appeared on state television, where they allegedly confessed to a series of assassinations, saying their former boss was behind them.

Tariq al-Hashemi himself has now fled to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. In his own defiant press conference, he denied all the charges. In turn, he has accused Mr. al-Maliki of being behind the trumped-up trial-by-television confessions.