Triple bombing kills scores in Iraq's Anbar Province(Read article summary)
The attacks are sparking concerns of a return to violence in an area that was the epicenter of the Sunni insurgency until local tribal leaders allied with the US in late 2007.
Ali al-Mashhdani / Reuters
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At least 25 people were killed and dozens wounded in a triple bombing in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, on Sunday. The bombings occurred during a reconciliation meeting, sparking fears of a resurgence of violence in an area that was the epicenter of the insurgency until local tribal leaders allied with the US to drive out insurgents in late 2007.
According to The New York Times, the first bomb exploded outside Ramadi's main government building. Seven minutes later, a car in the building's parking lot exploded, wounding security force members who responded to the initial attack. An hour after that, a man drove a car filled with explosives into Ramadi General Hospital where victims of the mornings attacks had been rushed for treatment.
The Times' report added that the bombings coincided with a reconciliation meeting aimed at preventing a fresh outbreak of sectarian violence.
The Iraqi police said [a car bomb] was detonated as a meeting took place inside on reconciliation efforts between the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and local Sunni Arabs.
Among those attending the meeting was Zuhair Chalabi, a representative of the National Reconciliation Committee, a group formed by Mr. Maliki to bring together various factions after sectarian warfare erupted in 2006….
The bombings … were the latest in a string of deadly attacks in the province during the past few months that have focused on tribal leaders and members of Iraqi security forces and Awakening Councils.
Following the attacks, police officials announced a curfew in Ramadi and Fallujah, Anbar's two major cities, reports McClatchy. Security forces also prevented journalists from covering the blasts and, according to an Iraqi media advocacy group, confiscated video footage of the blasts.
Rumors spread through Ramadi and other parts of the province about who was behind the attacks. Some suggested government officials were involved, part of the fallout from months of negotiations over creating alliances for Iraq's parliamentary elections in January. Others said that Al Qaeda was exploiting the rift between politicians ahead of the polls and blamed security forces for negligence. At least six senior security officials are running in the upcoming elections.
In July this year, Aswat al-Iraq, an independent Iraqi news agency, reported that the uptick in violence in Anbar was a result of local political tensions ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2010.
Sheikh Hashim Khalifa, a renowned tribal chief in Anbar … ascribed this growing wave of violence to "political conflicts as the forthcoming elections are drawing near"….
"The once-relied-on security agencies in Anbar are now helpless as to confront violence for the two specific reasons of poor intelligence gathering and security commanders' inclination to avoid clashing with powerful political blocs," Sheikh Khalifa told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
According to Reuters, however, Iraqi officials have blamed "Sunni extremists and members of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led Baath party for a wave of bombings [in Anbar] since June, including two at federal ministries."
Fears that insurgents are regrouping before the scheduled January elections compounded concerns that the elections could be postponed if lawmakers do not agree on a new election law, reports the Los Angeles Times.
In a statement issued Sunday in Baghdad, the United Nations mission in Iraq warned that there was a real risk the elections would have to be delayed because of squabbling within Iraq's legislature over what kind of election law to adopt and the composition of the commission that will oversee the poll…. Parliament has been bickering over whether voters should be able to cast ballots for individual candidates or for political parties – a so-called open-list system versus a closed list….
An election delay could in turn delay the withdrawal of US troops, the bulk of which are scheduled to pull out immediately after a new government is seated.