March 21, 2012 / 2:57 PM / 7 years ago

Iraqi al Qaeda claims bombs targeting summit security

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings that killed at least 52 people across the country on Tuesday in attacks aimed at undermining tighter security measures ahead of week’s Arab League summit in Baghdad.

An Iraqi policeman stands guard at the site of a bomb attack in Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, March 20, 2012. At least 16 near-simultaneous explosions struck cities and towns across Iraq on Tuesday, killing at least 43 people and wounding more than 200, despite a massive security clampdown ahead of next week's Arab League summit. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani

Iraq is due to host the meeting for the first time in over 20 years and the government is anxious to show it can maintain security following the withdrawal of U.S. forces in December.

Tuesday’s wide-scale explosions were the bloodiest in almost a month and were the latest attacks mainly targeting Iraqi police forces that the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) has claimed responsibility for this year.

In a statement posted on an Islamist website, the group said Tuesday’s attacks - in which 30 bombs struck cities and towns across Iraq and killed at least 52 people and wounded 250 - had targeted a security clampdown ahead of the summit in Baghdad.

“In a new coordinated wave, the lions of the Sunni people simultaneously set out in Baghdad and other provinces of the Islamic state to hit the security plan announced by the foolish government in the Green Zone in preparation for the meeting of Arab tyrants in Baghdad,” the statement said.

The Arab League summit on March 27-29 will be the first held in Baghdad since Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government considers it the most important diplomatic event yet for post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

Bombings and killings still occur almost daily in Iraq although violence has dropped since the peak of sectarian fighting in 2006-07.

Al Qaeda’s Iraq wing and allied Sunni Muslim insurgent groups say that they will not lay down arms, despite the departure of U.S. forces, and will continue to battle the Shi’ite-led government.

The ISI claimed responsibility for a wave of coordinated attacks on mostly Shi’ite targets on February 23 in which at least 60 people were killed.

It has also said it was behind the February 19 suicide car bomb attack against police officers and cadets that killed 19 people in Baghdad and the March 5 raid on checkpoints in Haditha in the west in which at least 27 security force members were killed.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Serena Chaudhry

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