Baghdad, Mar 20: Near-simultaneous attacks in several Iraqi cities killed at least 30 people today on the anniversary of the US-led invasion of the country, just days before Baghdad hosts a landmark Arab summit.
The violence, which left 160 people wounded, was the deadliest to strike Iraq in nearly a month and rocked towns and cities spanning the northern oil-rich hub of Kirkuk and the southern shrine city of Karbala between 7:00 am (0930 IST) and 9:00 am (1130 IST).
In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in the parking lot opposite the foreign ministry, security and medical officials said, despite dramatically heightened security measures in the capital in preparation for the Mar 27-29 Arab League summit.
Today's deadliest attack occurred in Karbala, where two roadside blasts at the entrance to the city killed 13 people and wounded 48, according to provincial health spokesman Jamal Mehdi. Police spokesman Major Alaa Abbas of Karbala, which is south of Baghdad and home to the shrines of revered Shiite clerics Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, confirmed the toll. A car bomb targeting a police office in the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk, meanwhile, killed nine policemen and wounded 42 people, the vast majority of them police, according to Dr Mohammed Abdullah at the city's hospital.
"We have also received parts of bodies, but we do not know who they belong to," Abdullah said. A car bomb in the central town of Hilla, south of the capital, killed two people and wounded 31 others, provincial security committee chief Haidar al-Zambur said. The toll was confirmed by Ali Mohammed at Hilla hospital.
A car bomb set off by a suicide attacker in central A car bomb set off by a suicide attacker in central Baghdad killed two people and wounded eight, security and medical officials said. Another car bomb in Ramadi, capital of western Anbar province, killed two people and wounded 11, according to police and medical officials.
Separate gun and bomb attacks in Salaheddin province killed two people, including a city councillor, police said. Bombings in the main northern city of Mosul, the refinery town of Baiji, and the northern towns of Daquq and Al-Dhuluiyah left 20 people wounded.
Today's violence was the bloodiest in Iraq since a wave of attacks claimed by al-Qaeda killed at least 42 people on Feb 23. The attacks come on the ninth anniversary of the beginning of the US-led invasion of Iraq which ousted Saddam Hussein, and just days before Baghdad hosts an Arab League summit, the first meeting of the 22-nation body to be held in the capital since Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Officials insist Iraq's security forces are capable of maintaining security for the March 27-29 summit, but have admitted they may need to effectively shut down Baghdad to do so. Violence across the country is down from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common.
A total of 150 Iraqis were killed in February, according to official figures.