String of explosions rocks Baghdad

Six car bombs, mortar rounds, and roadside bombs end relative calm, underscore leadership vacuum.

baghdad car bomb 88.298 (photo credit: )
baghdad car bomb 88.298
(photo credit: )
A string of explosions in Baghdad and north of the capital Monday killed at least 11 Iraqis and wounded 47. An American soldier was reported killed in insurgency-plagued western Iraq. The violence underscored a dangerous leadership vacuum as Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians increased pressure on Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to abandon his bid for a new term and leaders of Iraq's Shiite majority struggled to overcome internal divisions. Despite the political squabbling, President Jalal Talabani said he would issue a decree Monday calling the new parliament into session for the first time on Sunday, starting the clock on a 60-day period during which it would have to elect a new president and approve a prime minister and Cabinet. The constitution requires parliament to hold its first meeting no later than four weeks after the vote was certified, which happened Feb. 12, nearly two months after the election was held. But a leading member of al-Jaafari's Dawa Party, Ali al-Adib, said parliament's main Shiite bloc would request that the session be postponed until there was agreement on who should occupy the top government positions. Anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr predicted a "quick solution" to snarled attempts to form a govern. Emerging from a meeting in the holy city of Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and and securlar Shiite parliamentarian Ahmed Chalabi, al-Sadr said: "All obstacles to forming a national unity government soon will be resolved." Chalabi, the one-time Pentagon favorite as Iraq's post-Saddam Hussein leader, said al-Jaafari deserved the opportunity to form a government. " should be given a chance... It is to the benefit of all parties to keep the (Shiite) Alliance strong and unified," Chalabi said. The struggle to form a broad-based governing coalition acceptable to all the country's main ethnic and religious groups has been hampered by sectarian conflict and insurgent violence. Many of Monday's attacks targeted the country's Shiite-led security forces, accused by Sunni Arabs of repeated abuses against them under the cover of fighting the deadly Sunni-driven insurgency. The government denies the accusations. The bloodiest attack happened in Baqouba, where a car bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol exploded near a market, killing at least six people and injuring 23, including four patrolmen, police said. The mixed Sunni-Shiite city 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad has been at the forefront of a surge of sectarian violence unleashed by the February 22 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in the central city of Samarra. Bombs and mortar fire also rocked the capital Monday morning, ending a relative lull over the weekend. One bomb exploded as a police patrol was driving through a northern Baghdad neighborhood, killing one officer and a civilian bystander, Interior Ministry official Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said. Three others were injured in the blast, including a patrol member, he said. A suicide car bomber hit n Interior Ministry convoy in eastern Baghdad, killing two members of the security force and injuring three, police said. Another car bomb targeting a police patrol exploded in downtown, injuring at least seven people, police said. The wounded included four policemen and three civilian bystanders. Two bombs went off in Baghdad's notorious southern Dora neighborhood. One targeted an Interior Ministry patrol, wounding one commando, police said. A second went off as a US patrol was passing, injuring five policemen who were guarding a bank and two civilians, said al-Mohammedawi. There were no immediate reports of US casualties. An earlier explosion near the Shiite Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad caused no casualties, police said. Police found at least four more bodies that were shot in the head and dumped in parts of Baghdad. And three Shiite Turkmen were killed in a drive-by-shooting near Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. In Mahmoudiya, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Baghdad, a car bomb hit a police patrol, killing a woman and injuring three other people, including two policemen, said police Cap. Rashid al-Samarie. The US military reported a soldier assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 was killed in fighting Sunday in Iraq's western Anbar province. A least 2,300 members of the US military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. US officials see a government with participation across Iraq's ethnic and religious communities as a key step in improving security and weakening support for insurgents - a precondition that would allow Washington and its allies to begin pulling out troops. Under the constitution, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament, gets the first crack at forming a government and chose al-Jaafari as its nominee for prime minister. But the Alliance has too few seats to act alone. And it is facing stiff opposition from Sunni, Kurdish and some secular parties that favor current Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Al-Jaafari defeated Abdul-Mahdi, who is backed by powerful Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, by just one vote in the Shiite caucus, relying on al-Sadr's support to secure the nomination. Both al-Sadr and al-Hakim have strong militias behind them. Al-Jaafari's supporters and a Kurdish delegation favoring Abdul-Mahdi have both visited Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, hoping to secure his endorsement.