Wave Of Deadly Explosions Hit Iraqi Capital

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Multiple explosions in Baghdad killed dozens of people and injured scores more throughout the city. While previous bombings targeted check points or police, Thursday's victims appear to be mostly civilians. Some worry that the violence is a way to stoke sectarian tensions, which are already high.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Violent explosions have rocked Baghdad this morning. At least 69 people are dead, and scores have been injured. The Iraqi capital hasn't seen violence of this magnitude in quite some time, and it's happening in the midst of a deepening political crisis. NPR's Sean Carberry is in Baghdad. And Sean, what can you tell us about this morning's attacks?

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Well, what we know is that there were 16 discrete explosions that happened in 13 different locations across Baghdad. They all took place between 7 and 8 AM local time. They were a range of parked car bombs, suicide car bombs and IEDs. And one of the striking things is that the Baghdad operations command has said there were no military targets. They were all civilian, which is striking because violence here for months has been directed at security forces.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a handful of attacks each day targeting security forces. So this is clearly something different. And on TV this morning, you could see huge plumes of smoke billowing throughout the city from these various explosions.

Traffic has been shut down in many areas, and some of our local staff weren't even able to make it into work today because so many different areas of the city have been shut down because of this violence.

MONTAGNE: Now, has there been any claim of responsibility, any indication of a motive in this more unusual series of attacks?

CARBERRY: So far, there's nothing. No one has claimed responsibility - plenty of suspicion, obviously, given the fact that there has been this growing political feuding that's going on. One of the other things that's notable is that of the 13 locations where these bombings took place, 12 of them were Shia neighborhoods. Again, no clear statements about this, but that number is also something that stands out.

There's speculation that insurgents are looking to exploit the current situation. Politicians are starting to make accusations back and forth. The Iraqiya bloc, the Sunni-considered opposition bloc in parliament, has been saying that the Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is clearly not capable of maintaining security - plenty of motivation from all sides of the sectarian and political divide here to exploit this situation.

MONTAGNE: Take a step back and give us a summary of the current crisis and where this seems to be headed.

CARBERRY: Well, it started over the weekend as the U.S. troops were in the process of their final withdrawal. The main episode was the announcement of an arrest warrant against the Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi. He's accused of running assassination squads over the last few years. He fled north to the Kurdish region to seek the protection of leaders up there. He is denying the charges.

Maliki issued a statement yesterday saying he wants the Kurds to return Hashemi to stand trial. People are accusing Maliki of acting in a very authoritarian fashion right now. The opposition Iraqiya block has withdrawn from parliament in complaint about Maliki's actions, and there's general fear that Maliki is exploiting the withdrawal of the U.S. troops in a political vacuum to go after political opponents, assert greater authority and ultimately move towards a majority government and getting rid of the unity government that's been in place for the last year or so.

MONTAGNE: Sean, thanks very much.

CARBERRY: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Sean Carberry in Baghdad.

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