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Bombings across Iraq target police patrols, kill 28 people in run-up to Arab summit
BAGHDAD (AP) ' Bombings across Iraq killed 28 people and wounded more than 100 on Tuesday in a spate of violence that officials had dreaded in the days before Baghdad hosts the Arab world's top leaders.
The deadliest strike hit the holy Shiite city of Karbala, where officials said two car bombs exploded in a crowded shopping and restaurant area. Thirteen people were killed and another 50 were wounded in that attack, said local provincial council member Hussein Shadhan al-Aboudi.
Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, is a destination for thousands of Shiite pilgrims from around the world who visit the golden shrines of two revered imams each day.
Al-Aboudi immediately blamed the attacks on al-Qaida, the terror network that officials believe is behind the recent violence with the aim to have the Arab League's summit in Baghdad next week canceled for the second year in a row.
"The intention of these attacks is to destabilize the security situation in Karbala and other Iraqi cities and to shake the people's confidence on the government," al-Aboudi said.
"It seems that the terrorists want to abort the upcoming Arab Summit in Baghdad," he said. "The message is directed to the Arab leaders that Iraq is not safe enough to be visited."
Attacks Tuesday in five other cities ' Baghdad, the northern city of Kirkuk and three southern towns ' largely appeared to target police forces.
Three policemen were among those killed as bombings struck at security patrols in Baghdad and the town of Latifiyah, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of the Iraqi capital, local officials said. A car bomb also exploded outside a police headquarters in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir.
Additionally, a car bomb outside a restaurant of Hillah, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Baghdad, killed two people and wounded more than 20 others. And a roadside bomb exploded in a commercial area in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Baghdad, killing two and wounding seven.
Police and health officials who confirmed the casualties spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Officials have been bracing for attacks in the run-up to the annual Arab League summit in Baghdad, where the government hopes to showcase Iraq's improved security and stability since the sectarian fighting a few years ago that almost pulled the country into civil war.
The summit was initially supposed to be held last year but was postponed in part because of concerns about Iraq's security.
Insurgents are seeking to belie Baghdad's better image, and officials expect more attacks as hundreds of dignitaries and journalists converge on the capital next week.
Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report.