Iraq: sectarian attacks, protests

At least 23 people were killed and scores more wounded in a series of attacks across Iraq Dec. 31. At Mussayib on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, seven people—three women, two children and two men—were killed when three houses were blown up. In central Baghdad, a parked car bomb went off next to a tent for Shi'ite pilgrims in Karada neighborhood, killing five people and injuring 25 others. At Khalis, 80 kilometers north of Baghdad, two more Shi'ite pilgrims were killed. Another pilgrim was killed and 11 wounded at Latifiyah, south of Baghdad. Near Baquba, west of Baghdad, gunmen assaulted the house of Kalid Luhaibi, a local leader of the government's National Reconciliation dialogue initiative, killing a security guard and wounding two. (Al Jazeera, Middle East Online, Dec. 31; al-Shofra, Dec. 6)

Bodyguards for Iraq's deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq wounded two people after firing warning shots at Sunni protesters who pelted his convoy with bottles and stones in Anbar Dec. 31. Al-Mutlaq, himself a Sunni, had travelled to address people in an attempt to defuse sectarian tensions. Thousands of Sunnis have taken to the streets and blocked a main highway over the past week in protest against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who they accuse of discriminating against them and being under the sway of Iran. Echoing slogans used in popular revolts that brought down leaders in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Yemen, protesters have called on Maliki to step down. (Al Jazeera, Dec. 30)

Iraq suicide bomb targets Awakening leader

A member of the Iraqi Parliament was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Anbar province Jan. 15. The lawmaker, Efan al-Essawi, was also the leader of a local council of the Sunni Awakening, the US-backed group of Sunni militias that switched sides to fight the insurgents, (NYT, Jan. 16)