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Bombs Rock Baghdad

A woman walks past the site of a bomb attack in Baghdad's Shaab District, northern Baghdad, December 22, 2011.

A woman walks past the site of a bomb attack in Baghdad's Shaab District, northern Baghdad, December 22, 2011.

A series of bomb blasts hit the Iraqi capital Thursday, leaving at least 63 dead and more than 180 wounded. The attacks came as Iraq is gripped in a political crisis between Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sunni political rivals in the government.

Ambulances ferried casualties to hospitals across Baghdad following the multiple explosions that seemed to target mostly Shi'ite areas. Witnesses say most of the apparently coordinated attacks occurred as people were heading off to work.

Iraqi government TV indicated that four explosions were of car bombs, while 10 were the result of roadside bombs. Baghdad's security chief said police found and disabled six other car bombs before they exploded.

The Sunni Arab satellite channel al Baghdadiya also reported failed assassination attempts against a top central bank official and a police general, and a rocket attack in a Shi'ite neighborhood.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

Hassan, a witness to one of the bomb blasts, complained that innocent civilians were paying the price of quarrels among politicians. He warns politicians to stop making innocent people pay for their disagreements.

VOA spoke to Al Hurra’s Hiba Hisham shortly after Thursday’s explosions in Baghdad. She says streets across the capital were blocked, and it took her coworkers four hours to reach the office instead of the usual 10 minutes.

However, she said Iraqis are used to attacks, so Baghdad residents will probably not change their daily routines.

When vice president Tariq al-Hashemi was accused of involvement in terrorist activities, Iraqis feared violence could escalate. But she said no one expected so many bombings in one day.

The terror attacks come during the political crisis which erupted this week when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, tried to arrest Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, accusing him of involvement in terrorist plots. Hashemi then fled to Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

Maliki demanded Wednesday that Kurdish leaders hand Hashemi over for prosecution of his alleged crimes. Kurdistan regional President Massoud Barzani is refusing to do so.

Hashemi, for his part, claims that the charges against him are trumped up, telling VOA that the conflict is the result of outside pressure from both Iran and Syria on Prime Minister Maliki.

Hashemi says the neighboring countries are not pleased with his some of his recent statements and are behind what he calls the fabrication of the entire crisis, and the escalating media campaign against him.

The prime minister's spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, retorted that Vice President Hashemi, and not Maliki, was turning the crisis into a media circus.

He says Hashemi should make his case before the judicial system, and not in front of the press. He insists that TV is turning the matter into a dangerous political crisis.

Middle East analyst James Denselow of King's College London says that Mr. Maliki is trying to “force through his own that the U.S. has withdrawn.” But, he argues, it's still too soon to conclude that the political process in Iraq has unraveled.

"In the past, these things have happened and people have backed down when they've realized that their own interests won't be secured by undermining the entire edifice as a whole. So I believe that cooler heads may prevail once saber-rattling has stopped," Denselow said.

Iraq's parliament speaker is due to meet with top political leaders within the next 24 hours in a bid to resolve the rapidly escalating conflict.

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