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Bombings Kill 31 in Iraq               05/01 11:05

   BAGHDAD (AP) -- Two car bombs in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah on 
Sunday killed 31 people and wounded dozens, the latest in a series of large 
attacks claimed by the Islamic State group as the country grapples with a 
worsening political crisis.

   The attacks came the day after thousands of anti-government protesters 
poured into Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone and stormed parliament, the 
culmination of months of protests by followers of an influential Shiite cleric 
demanding wide-ranging political reforms.

   A police officer said two parked cars filled with explosives were detonated 
within minutes of each other around midday in Samawah, the first near 
government offices and the second at an open-air bus station less than a 
kilometer (mile) away.

   At least 52 people were wounded in both explosions, and the police official 
said the death toll was expected to rise. A medical official confirmed the 
casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were 
not authorized to release information.

   IS claimed the bombings in an online statement, saying they were carried out 
by suicide attackers targeting police. It was not immediately possible to 
reconcile the competing claims.

   The Shiite-dominated city is located some 370 kilometers (230 miles) south 
of the capital, Baghdad. The extremists have repeatedly targeted Iraq's Shiite 
majority -- which they view as apostates -- as well as the Shiite-dominated 
security forces.

   Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered authorities to 
arrest and prosecute protesters who attacked security forces, lawmakers and 
damaged state property after breaking into the Green Zone.

   Followers of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr tore down blast walls 
and poured into the Green Zone and parliament building on Saturday.

   Videos on social media showed a group of young men surrounding and slapping 
two Iraqi lawmakers as they attempted to flee the crowd, while other protesters 
mobbed lawmakers' motorcades. Jubilant protesters were also seen jumping and 
dancing on the parliament's meeting hall tables and chairs and waving Iraqi 
flags. No one was seriously wounded. The protesters eventually left the 
parliament Saturday night and rallied at a nearby square.

   Al-Sadr and his supporters want to reform the political system put in place 
following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, in which entrenched political blocs 
representing the country's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds rely on patronage, 
resulting in widespread corruption and poor public services. The major blocs 
have until now stymied al-Abadi's reform efforts.

   On Sunday, protesters vowed to continue their sit-in inside the Green Zone 
until their demands are met.

   "We are fed up, we are living a humiliated life," Rasool Hassan, a 37-year 
old father of three told The Associated Press from inside the Green Zone. 
"We'll leave here only when the corrupt government is replaced with another of 
independent technocrats that serves the people not the political parties," 
Hassan added.

   "We need new faces, not the old ones," said Shatha Jumaa, a 58-year old 
surgeon. Jumaa, who identified herself as a secularist, said she wanted the 
current government dissolved and replaced by a small interim administration 
whose job would be to amend the constitution and to prepare for an early 
national election.

   Also on Sunday, the United Nations said at least 741 Iraqis were killed in 
April due to ongoing violence, a sharp decline from the previous month. In its 
monthly report, the U.N. mission to Iraq put the number of civilians killed at 
410, while the rest were members of the security forces. A total of 1,374 
Iraqis were wounded that month, it added.

   In March, at least 1,119 people were killed and 1,561 wounded.

   The capital, Baghdad, remains the worst-hit area, with 232 civilians killed 
and 642 wounded in April, followed by the northern province of Ninevah, which 
is almost entirely controlled by the Islamic State group, with 72 killed and 30 
wounded.

   "It pains us to see the continuing bloodletting and loss of life, 
particularly among civilians who are paying a high price as a result of 
bombings and the armed clashes," U.N. envoy Jan Kubis said.


(KA)

 
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