Bombings and shootings killed at least 46 people and injured some 200 across Iraq Tuesday, hitting mostly police and Shiite pilgrims in a rampage that authorities feared ahead of the annual summit of the Arab League scheduled in Baghdad next week.
The government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, announced a week-long holiday in Baghdad, from 25 to 31 March, during which government offices will be closed. A curfew will be imposed on March 29 in some areas of the capital to secure the arrival of Arab leaders. The roads near the fortified Green Zone where the summit is to take place will be barred and the residents will be encouraged to stay home.
Tuesday’s attacks have not been claimed but authorities expected that al-Qaeda in Iraq and Sunni militants would try to foil the summit.
The deadliest attack Tuesday occurred in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, where the explosion of two car bombs in an area full of shops and restaurants has killed at least 13 people and left 50 injured, according to a provincial councilor, Hussein al-Aboudi Shadhan. Thousands of Shiite pilgrims from around the world gather each day at Karbala around the tomb of Imam Hussein, grand-son of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Five Iraqi pilgrims were among those killed Tuesday.
The insurgents also blew up the house of a senior police officer in Fallujah, in the west of the country. In Kirkuk, at least 13 died, mostly policemen, and 59 wounded, in another attack.
The attacks, targeting especially the police and government officials have struck a total of eight cities. The reports were confirmed by police and medical officials who requested anonymity.
The Iraqi government said last week that it would mobilize unprecedented numbers of security forces to protect the capital during the Arab summit. Some 26,000 police and soldiers, including over 4,000 from the south and north of the country, should be deployed in Baghdad.