Iraq instability tested further with bombing wave

By Adam Schreck

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 29 2013 9:29 p.m. MDT

"The students were panicking and some of them started to cry," he said, recounting seeing burned bodies and cars on fire at the nearby blast site. "We have been expecting this violence against Shiites because of the rising sectarian tension in the country," he said.

Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. Like the police, they spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Monday's blasts. But coordinated bombings in civilian areas are a favorite tactic for al-Qaida in Iraq.

Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, condemned Monday's bombings and urged the government to step down "in order to save the country from the specter of civil war and sectarian strife." He called for the installation of an interim government, dissolution of parliament and early elections.

He issued a similar call in February for the prime minister to step down and for early elections, but there is little sign for now of that happening.

Sectarian violence has spiked since last Tuesday, when security forces tried to make arrests at a Sunni Muslim protest camp in the northern city of Hawija. The move set off a clash that killed 23 people, including three soldiers.

In Baghdad, al-Maliki met on Monday with the prime minister of Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region, Nechirvan Barzani.

A statement from the Iraqi leader's office said the two sides discussed their differences "in an atmosphere of frankness and seriousness and with a common desire to find solutions."

Ongoing disputes between Baghdad and the Kurds over sensitive issues such as ethnically disputed territories and how to manage the country's vast oil wealth further undermine Iraq's stability as al-Maliki tries to manage relations with the country's Sunni Arabs.

In other violence Monday, several mortar shells exploded in an uninhabited area near Baghdad International Airport around sunset, but no casualties were reported, police said.

An Iranian exile group whose members live in a refugee camp near the airport described the explosions as rocket strikes. It said they hit water canals at the southern part of the camp.

The group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has been pushing for camp residents, members of its Mujahedeen-e-Khalq militant wing, to be moved back to another camp north of Baghdad. Iraq's government wants them out of the country altogether.

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