Violent Explosions Rock Baghdad

A coordinated wave of bombings across Baghdad early Thursday left at least 60 dead and dozens more wounded. The violence came amid a worsening political crisis, with Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seeking the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the highest ranking Sunni in the government, over allegations he ran a death squad.

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Now to Iraq where a series of violent explosions tore through Baghdad this morning. More than 60 people have died and around 200 were injured. The timing is troubling. U.S. troops have just departed and a high stakes political crisis is gripping the country.

NPR's Sean Carberry is in Baghdad and has been following the unfolding political crisis as well as today's violence.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Small attacks that kill one or two security officers tend to be a daily occurrence in Baghdad. But what happened today looks like a page from the past. At the height of the sectarian war, multiple coordinated bombings were common and it's been a while since something like this has shaken the city.

GENERAL QASSIM ATTA: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: General Qassim Atta, the spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command, ran through some of the gory details on state TV.

ATTA: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: An assortment of explosions shook 13 different locations across Baghdad, all during rush hour Thursday morning. There were parked car bombs, a suicide car bomber and a number of IEDs.

ATTA: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: General Atta said that unlike the typical attacks, these didn't seem to be targeting the police or military. The mayor of Baghdad and other officials said the bombings had all the hallmarks of al-Qaida. The most deadly explosion hit the building of Iraq's anti-corruption office in the Karada neighborhood. At least 25 died from the blast that shattered storefront windows for blocks around.

TALIB AL RUBAIE: There must be a foreign agenda beyond what has happened today in Baghdad.

CARBERRY: Sixty-four-year-old Talib al Rubaie reflected on the events of the day while playing dominos at a cafe not far from the site of the explosion.

RUBAIE: Actually, the agenda is trying its best to impede Iraq from practicing democratic steps towards the future.

AHMED MAHDI: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: Ahmed Mahdi is a 22-year-old who's selling chickpeas from a cart outside the cafe. He says the explosions were the result of the political crisis that erupted last weekend just as the last American convoy was packing to leave. Word came out of an arrest warrant against the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. The government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused Hashemi of running assassination squads that have killed political and military officials.

MAHDI: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: Ahmed Mahdi believes that supporters of the embattled Sunni politicians carried out the bombings. Sectarianism has been on the rise and there's fear that things may be reaching critical mass. Reidar Visser is a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs. He says these bombings alone won't cause sectarian war.

REIDAR VISSER: It's equally important to look at how the politicians talk to each other and communicate with the masses.

CARBERRY: As of this moment, Visser and most people in Baghdad will tell you that communication is not going well.

Sean Carberry, NPR News, Baghdad.

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