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Terrorism & Security

Baghdad bomb ratchets up worries about slide into sectarian violence (video)

Deadly Baghdad bombings today, which followed an arrest warrant for a top Sunni official, comes just days after the final US troops left the country.

By Staff writer / December 22, 2011

Iraqi security forces gather the scene of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 22. A wave of bombings ripped across Baghdad on Thursday morning killing and wounding hundreds of people, Iraqi officials said, in the worst violence Iraq has seen for months.

Hadi Mizban/AP

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A series of bombings in Baghdad today has bolstered fears of a return to the sectarian violence that tore apart Iraq during its civil war. The attacks come just days after the last US troops left the country.

More than 60 people were killed in the explosions, which spanned a two-hour period at the height of morning rush hour in Baghdad and included car and roadside bombs. Another 185 were injured, CNN reports. According to CNN, the explosions hit a number of the capital's mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods. But the Associated Press reported that the bombings "bore all the hallmarks of Al Qaeda's Sunni insurgents," saying that most appeared to hit Shiite neighborhoods, although some Sunni areas were also targeted.

This is the first incident of what many fear will be a wave of violent incidents since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on Tuesday for alleged terrorism activity. Just before the arrest warrant was issued, nine members of Mr. Hashemi’s Iraqiya parliamentary coalition suspended their participation in parliament under threats from Mr. Maliki that he would take away cabinet seats held by the largely Sunni Iraqiya bloc and replace them with members of his own Shiite alliance, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

With Iraqiyya being politically hounded, a return to open civil war in Iraq is a real possibility. The group effectively represents Sunni interests in the country. Sunni voters turned out enthusiastically in 2010 after past electoral boycotts, and the group was in effect an experiment in whether they could gain a real political voice in the country through the ballot box. The failure of that experiment will send a worrying message.

Hashemi, a Sunni Islamist, heads the Iraqi Islamic party, a part of the Iraqiya bloc. Several of his family members were killed during the civil war, and he had ties to the insurgency, but he has denied the arrest warrant's charges of terrorism and running a death squad. Earlier this week, he fled to the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan. Maliki has threatened the Kurdish region with “problems” if they don’t hand over Hashemi, the Monitor reports.

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