- Associated Press - Sunday, January 23, 2011

BAGHDAD (AP) — A flurry of morning bombs killed 10 people and wounded 34 around Baghdad on Sunday, police said, in what one Iraqi official called an attempt to undermine security ahead of a much anticipated meeting of Arab heads of state in two months.

The three-hour drumbeat of explosions began around 7 a.m. in Baghdad’s rush hour at the start of the local work week. The Iraqi intelligence official said the attacks were trying to present the country as dangerous because Arab heads of state and their large retinues plan to meet in Baghdad in late March for the annual Arab League summit.

The attacks appear to be a mixture of roadside bombings, suicide bombers and car bombs.

Police said at least two car bombs exploded, apparently targeting 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.

Shi’ite pilgrims make daily visits to the gold domed shrine of Kazimiyah, where two of Shi’ism’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.

No group immediately took responsibility for the bombings, but a senior Iraqi intelligence official said they appeared to be the work of insurgents taking advantage of the government’s delay in appointing a new interior minister, who runs the nation’s security forces.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki still is weighing whom 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 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 not only to showcase its return to stability after years of violence, but to have an opportunity to mend frayed ties with its Arab neighbors.

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

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