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Four dead, 26 wounded in separate Iraq attacks

BAGHDAD: A series of attacks near Baghdad and north of the capital killed four people yesterday, the latest in an apparent spike in violence just weeks ahead of Iraq’s first elections in three years.
Separate bombings south of Baghdad — one inside a restaurant and the other a car bombing near a police checkpoint — killed two people and left 26 others wounded, officials said.
They said three gun and bomb attacks in restive cities north of the capital killed two more people and wounded two others.
The attacks come ahead of provincial elections scheduled for April 20, due to be held in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, the country’s first polls since a parliamentary vote in March 2010.
But questions have been raised over the credibility of those polls as elections have been postponed in two provinces roiled by months of protests, and at least a dozen candidates have been killed, according to an AFP tally.
Though markedly lower than its peak in 2006 and 2007, levels of violence remain high in Iraq — at least 240 people have been killed in attacks this month, already more than in February.
Separately, Iraq executed 18 people this month, eight of them on the same day as an attack on the Justice Ministry, a top official said yesterday.
They were the first confirmed executions this year, after Justice Minister Hassan Al-Shammari insisted last week that Baghdad would continue to implement the death penalty in the face of widespread calls for it to issue a moratorium.
Iraq executed at least 129 people last year, according to the Justice Ministry.
“On March 14, we executed eight, and then on March 17, we executed 10,” Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim told AFP.
He said that all 18 were convicted of terror-related offenses, and that all were Iraqi men.

He declined to give a breakdown of where they were from, but said that some had been tried in northern Nineveh province and some in Baghdad, with others in unspecified provinces.
Eight of the executions coincided with a coordinated attack on the Justice Ministry complex in central Baghdad on March 14 in which 30 people were killed. The attack was later claimed by Al-Qaeda’s front group in Iraq.
Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate later said that nationwide attacks on March 19 that killed 56 people were “revenge for those whom you (the government) executed.”
Iraq’s executions have sparked calls for a moratorium from the United Nations, as well as Britain, the European Union and rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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