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Three Massive Bombs Rock Baghdad, at Least 41 Killed

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Iraqi authorities say at least 41 people have been killed in three massive explosions in Baghdad. More than 200 people have been wounded in the blasts, which came as politicians struggle to form a new government.

The bombs exploded within minutes of each other, two in the Mansur district, a diplomatic area in western Baghdad, the third near the Iranian embassy in the center of the capital. Iranian and Egyptian officials say no one on their staffs was hurt in explosions near their missions.

Most of the victims appeared to be civilians, with one wounded man saying defiantly "by God, we are not scared."

The attacks resembled other bombings since the middle of last year, when U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities. Massive, coordinated blasts, in August, October, December and January, targeted other high profile sites, killing some 400 people, most of them also civilians.

Those explosions were thought to be an attempt by local al-Qaida forces to destabilize the country before parliamentary elections last month. A series of attacks marred election day four weeks ago, but the capital had been relatively quiet since, even though a new government has yet to emerge.

No political bloc took enough seats to assume power and Western diplomats, among others, say it could be weeks, perhaps months before a ruling coalition could come together. Current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose State of Law alliance came a very close second to former Prime Minister Iyad Alawi's Iraqiya, is leading the caretaker government.

Both men tried to project a non-sectarian, nationalist image, with Mr. Alawi in particular reaching out to Sunni voters. But most of the major players in the current political wrangling are Shi'ite.

Sa'id Nassar, a Cairo-based writer and commentator on Arab political affairs, argued that these leaders came to prominence "on top of American tanks." With the U.S. pulling out, Nassar said, their ability to lead has faltered. More than half of the 96,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are set to leave by September, the rest by the end of next year.

The politicians internal divisions have led to fears that a political vacuum could give Sunni militants a chance to revive the sectarian violence that roiled the nation in 2006 and 2007.

In Bou Saifi, a village south of Baghdad, gunmen killed at least 24 people Friday in what authorities say was an attack by al-Qaida members against families of men linked to Awakening Councils, a pro-U.S. Sunni force that helped Iraq fight extremists and regain a measure of relative calm in recent years.

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