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Flurry of deadly bombs strikes Baghdad

A series of bombs in and around the Iraqi capital killed 10 people on Sunday, and an intelligence official warned of a campaign to undermine security before a much anticipated meeting of Arab heads of state in March.
Image: A man walks through rubble at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad
A man walks through rubble at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad on Sunday.Hadi Mizban / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A series of bombs in and around the Iraqi capital killed 10 people on Sunday, and an intelligence official warned of a campaign to undermine security before a much anticipated meeting of Arab heads of state in March.

The senior Iraqi official also said insurgents appeared to be taking advantage of the government's delay in appointing a new interior minister, who runs the nation's security forces.

The three-hour drumbeat of explosions began around 7 a.m. in Baghdad's rush hour at the start of the local workweek. Besides the dead, 34 people were wounded. The attacks appeared to involve roadside bombs, suicide bombers and car bombs.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is still weighing who to name to the nation's top defense, interior and national security posts, saying he wants to ensure they are filled by apolitical candidates.

The intelligence official said insurgents were seeking to seize on the delay.

He also called the bombings a message to the world that Iraq is not ready to provide security for the Arab League when Baghdad hosts the annual two-day summit, beginning March 23, for the first time in 20 years.

Hosting the summit would be an important step for Iraq to not only showcase its return to stability after years of violence, but a chance to mend frayed ties with its Arab neighbors.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

Police said at least two of Sunday's attacks in the capital involved car bombs that apparently targeted police patrols, killing two policemen and a bystander, while two other people were killed when the offices of the government sewage department in downtown was bombed.

In the city's northern Kazimiyah suburb, another bomb exploded as a bus of Iranian pilgrims drove by, killing one and injuring nine. Shiite pilgrims make daily visits to the gold domed shrine of Kazimiyah, where two of Shiism's revered imams are buried. It was not immediately clear if the blast was caused by a car bomb or a suicide bomber.

Just north of Baghdad, in the town of Taji, a car bomb killed a farmer and his son heading to a nearby market to sell their crops. In the nearby town of Tarmiyah, once an insurgent stronghold, a bomb planted outside a school went off, killing two young boys.

The casualties were all confirmed by hospital workers, and all officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Violence in Iraq has dropped dramatically since just a few years ago when daily death tolls sometimes were in the hundreds from sectarian killings.

But small-scale bombings and drive-by shootings still persist on a near daily basis.

Speaking to reporters later Sunday, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari discouraged a direct link between the bombings and the Arab League meeting but said "definitely, overall, the security situation is very important and would be a conducive factor to have the summit in Baghdad, as is the case as we speak."

"Security is always a challenge to the Iraqi government but we are confident ... the security challenge will be overcome."

Zebari's comments came after a meeting with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. He was in Baghdad to meet with senior officials about the plight of thousands of Iraqis fleeing their homeland each month.

He said the UNHCR is currently aiding an estimated 196,000 Iraqis who have left their homeland in the last several years — including an estimated 2,000 monthly since last fall in the wake of brutal attacks on Christians, including an Oct. 31 assault on a Catholic church during Mass that left 68 dead.

Guterres said not all of the new refugees are Christian but UNHCR has seen a "significant number of Christians in the recent past."

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Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Lara Jakes contributed to this report.