Hadi Mizban  /  AP
Iraqi children inspect the wreckage of vehicles burnt after a car bomb attack in Baghdad on Sunday.
updated 5/14/2006 8:44:11 PM ET 2006-05-15T00:44:11

A string of deadly attacks ripped through the Iraqi capital Sunday, killing at least 26 people and wounding nearly 70, police said. Six small Shiite shrines also were damaged in a series of blasts around Baqouba, a mixed Sunni Arab-Shiite region where sectarian tensions are running high.

Other attacks elsewhere in Iraq killed 15 people, including two British soldiers who were killed in a roadside bombing Saturday night.

Baghdad’s deadliest attack Sunday involved two suicide car bombs that exploded near a main checkpoint on a four-lane road leading to the international airport, killing at least 14 Iraqis and wounding six. The other 12 Iraqis were killed by four roadside bombs, three targeting Iraqi police patrols and one that exploded in an open market.

The surge of violence occurred as Iraq’s parliament met in Baghdad, and Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki met privately with politicians to try to form a Cabinet for a new national unity government — one the Americans hope can help reduce sectarian violence and one day make it possible for U.S. forces to withdraw.

Unilateral Shiite bid for government?
His effort was set back Sunday when a member of an influential Shiite alliance bloc threatened to form a new government unilaterally if rival groups did not scale back their demands for Cabinet ministries. At the same time, Sunni Arabs threatened to withdraw entirely from the political process.

Al-Maliki faces a May 22 constitutional deadline to form the Cabinet.

The attacks on the Shiite shrines near Baqouba began about 7:15 a.m. Saturday when one or more bombs exploded inside the Tameem shrine, according to U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson.

Other attacks occurred throughout the day at five other shrines east of Baqouba, capital of the religiously mixed Diyala province 35 miles northeast of Baghdad and one of the flash points of sectarian tensions.

Karim Kadim  /  AP
An Iraqi woman reacts Sunday at the scene of a roadside bomb attack that missed a police patrol, but hit a civilian bus in Baghdad.
“These are terrorist attacks meant to divide Iraq’s Shiites and Sunni Arabs, but if God is willing, they will not succeed,” said Mohammed Hussein, 45, a businessman in Baqouba.

The shrine attacks could have significant repercussions — particularly in the Baqouba area, a mixed Sunni Arab-Shiite region where sectarian tensions are running high.

On Feb. 22, bombs heavily damaged the Golden Dome in Samarra, which holds the tomb of Imam Jabir’s grandfather. That attack triggered reprisal attacks against Sunnis, dramatically escalating sectarian tension and pushing the country to the brink of civil war.

“Such acts anger God and hurt the feeling of all honest Iraqis,” Shiite cleric Adnan al-Rubaie said in a telephone interview from Baqouba. “The goal is clear — to ignite a civil strife. God’s curse on everybody who tries to create sedition in this country.”

Britons killed near Basra
Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed two British soldiers as they patrolled in their armored vehicle near the southern Iraqi city of Basra late Saturday night, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said. A third soldier was wounded. The deaths raised to 111 the number of British service members who have died since the Iraq war began in 2003.

In other violence reported by police Sunday:

  • A suicide bomber rammed into a U.S. military convoy, killing two Iraqi bystanders, and wounding nine in a neighborhood of Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad. No U.S. casualties were immediately reported.
  • Fighting between insurgents and police in Mosul killed one policeman and wounded three officers and a militant, said Mosul police chief Wathiq Mohammed.
  • A roadside bomb exploded next to a convoy of bodyguards for Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, killing three and injuring another three, said Kamal Kirkukly, an official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party. It happened about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
  • Gunmen killed two Shiite workers in a bakery in Baghdad.
  • Suspected insurgents wearing police uniforms kidnapped five Iraqis, four of them brothers, from two homes in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Police also found the bodies of five Iraqis who apparently had been kidnapped and killed by death squads.
  • The handcuffed bodies of four men who had been shot through the head were found in Baghdad.
  • A drive-by shooting killed a Shiite taxi driver in southwestern Baghdad.
  • Four insurgents were killed in a gunbattle with Iraqi police during search operations in Dora, one of Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods.

Parliament convenes amid turmoil
Iraqi lawmakers have been struggling for months to set up the new national unity government, which they hope will calm sectarian and ethnic tensions and undermine the insurgency. But negotiations have been progressing at a glacial pace, leading some lawmakers to complain that the process was being hampered by self-interest and sectarianism.

As the 275-member parliament convened Sunday, Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker loyal to the radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, denounced what he said was continued U.S. meddling in the formation of the Cabinet and he set a deadline of two days before the 130 alliance deputies unilaterally forms their own Cabinet.

Sunni lawmakers issued their own threat, with one member of the three-party Sunni Arab coalition that holds 44 parliament seats threatening to leave the talks and the government.

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