Resurgence of Violence Kills Scores of Iraqis

A spike in insurgent attacks around the country Wednesday kills more than 50 Iraqis and wounds dozens more. Meanwhile, Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political leaders continue talks on the prospects of a national unity government following last month's parliamentary elections.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

It's been a bloody day in Iraq, with bombings and insurgent attacks both north and south of Baghdad and in the capital itself. More than 50 Iraqis were killed and dozens more were wounded. Most of the day's incidents underscored the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict, but at the same time, Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish political leaders are continuing talks on the prospects of a national unity government following last month's parliamentary elections. NPR's Jamie Tarabay joins us now from Baghdad.

Jamie, I understand the worst incident was a suicide bombing at a Shiite funeral procession. Could you give us the details?

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

About a hundred mourners were gathered at the cemetery in Miqdadiyah, which is about 60 miles north of Baghdad. And as we understand it, they were lowering the body into the grave when the suicide bomber detonated his vest and killed at least 36 people. Most of the other people just tried to take cover in the cemetery; dozens of people were taken to the hospital. This funeral--it was a Shiite politician who is the local leader in Miqdadiyah for the Dawa Party, which is the religious group that is headed nationally by the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jafari.

NORRIS: And, Jamie, what about the violence elsewhere in the country?

TARABAY: There has been a long list of attacks that have happened in the country today, but it's not unlike any other day in Baghdad. On average, the US military estimates that there are about 75 attacks a day. It's just that on this day in particular, a lot of those attacks have been successful. We've had car bombs in Baghdad. We've had shooting attacks in Mosul and in Anbar province. In all, more than 50 people were killed across the country. It was a very violent day today.

NORRIS: And there's reportedly been a big security clampdown in Baghdad. Is that still linked to the stepped-up security associated with the elections?

TARABAY: No, actually what's happened is that the interior minister's sister was abducted yesterday, and what the Interior Ministry has done today is set up roadblocks across the capital. They closed two bridges and set up checkpoints putting out information about the suspect and the vehicle they were driving. And this isn't the first family member of Bayan Jabor's family to be taken. About three months ago, his brother was abducted. He was held for one night and then was released after Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was able to intervene.

But Bayan Jabor is a very unpopular man with the Sunnis. He's head of the ministry that recently had those detention facilities come under the spotlight, the ones where hundreds of mainly Sunni prisoners were held showing signs of malnourishment and signs of torture. So he's not a very a popular person with the Sunnis.

NORRIS: Jamie, even as all this is going on, political leaders are still conducting talks about forming a new government even though the results of the election are not yet known. What's the latest on those discussions?

TARABAY: Well, last week, the Shiites went up north. This week, some of the Sunnis went, but not all of them. According to some reports, you know, the Sunnis who went to meet with the Kurds say that they're prepared to accept the election results even though other groups are still contesting them. And they're just going ahead now to talk about what they can do and what the next government will look like. Everyone is still saying it's going to be a national unity government and all the different ethnicities are going to be represented. You know, it's still not clear what it's going to look like. And also the election results, as you said, is not--are not going to be final until the middle of January. So in the meantime, we're going to see a lot of wheeling and dealing and compromises. And this time it's not just the Kurds and the Shiites; it's the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunnis and they all need to be made happy. So we're going to see a lot of talking and meeting in the next few days and weeks.

NORRIS: Thank you, Jamie.

TARABAY: Thank you.

NORRIS: NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad.

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