A suicide bomber kills a police officer and wounds 2, police say
The attack took place as Baghdad hosts an Arab League summit
The gathering is taking place under unprecedented security
Falluja protesters call for Arab leaders to press Iraq for reforms
A car bomb killed a police officer and wounded two others in western Baghdad on Tuesday, police said, despite tight security ahead of this week’s Arab League summit in the Iraqi capital.
An Interior Ministry official said the bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint in the western neighborhood of Ghazaliya.
The attack took place amid unprecedented security in the Iraqi capital, which is slated to host an Arab League summit on Thursday for the first time since 1990. The gathering tests Iraq’s ability to provide critical organization and security in the country where deadly violence remains a weekly norm.
In the city of Falluja, west of Baghdad, hundreds of people joined tribal and religious leaders to welcome the Arab leaders and call on them to pressure Iraq’s government for reforms.
Residents of the Sunni Muslim city said they want Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government to establish a sectarian balance in government institutions, particularly the army and police, and to stop the “politicization” of the judiciary system.
Falluja was the scene of pitched battles with U.S. troops in the years after the American-led invasion of Iraq, and protesters there called on arriving Arab leaders to press their Iraqi counterparts to grant amnesty to former guerrillas who did not take part in attacks on civilians. They also warned against what they said was Iranian interference in the country.
“We call on the Arab leaders to stop the betrayal of the Sunni people in Iraq and to stop Iraq from falling into Iran’s grip,” said one of the protesters, Riyadh Ali.
The demonstrators carried Iraqi and Arab League flags, and many of them were wearing hats with the Arab League logo. One banner read, “Anbar tribes welcome the Arab leaders in Baghdad and we call on them to carry out their duties toward Iraq and Iraqis.”
They also called on the Arab leaders to take steps to bring an end to the year-long crackdown on opposition in Syria and to remember what they called the original Arab issue: the decades-old conflict between the Palestinians and Israel.
The leaders of all other Arab League countries except Syria, which has been suspended from the group over the clampdown, are expected to attend the summit. On Monday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari described the summit as “the most important event for Iraq.”
“It is a recognition of the new Iraq that emerged since 2003 by its new leaders, its new constitution, its new policies, its new political system at the heart of the Middle East,” Zebari said.
The preparations have led to a virtual lockdown in Baghdad, with most of its central arteries cut off to vehicle traffic. Cars are being thoroughly inspected at checkpoints, causing hours-long delays. The traffic jams and additional security measures are keeping most people indoors, and many who still need to get to their jobs are making their way on foot.
But similar checkpoints did not stop a round of bombings last week that killed 45 people and wounded hundreds on the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion. The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attacks in Baghdad and other provinces.