Iraqi officials say bomb attacks in over a dozen Iraqi cities today killed over 40 people in what appeared to be a coordinated strike on the country's security apparatus in the run-up to a historic arrival of Arab leaders in Baghdad next week, reported Reuters.
Officials say at least 43 people were killed and over 200 people were injured in a near-simultaneous string of attacks across the country.
The deadliest reported incident took place in the southern city and Shiite pilgrim site of Kerbala, where one local official told Reuters that two explosions killed 13 people.
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The violence comes despite an agressive security effort on the part of Iraqi authorities in anticipation of the March 27 to 29 Arab League meeting there.
Two bombs hit the capital city of Baghdad, one exploding outside the Foreign Ministry, where The New York Times noted "dozens of Iraqi diplomats and staff members are working round the clock to finalize the details of the $500 million Arab League summit."
The event, Iraq's first such opportunity in 20 years, is seen as its debut on the Arab world stage following the withdrawal of US troops in December.
It is also the first-ever Arab League summit to be headed by a major Shiite Arab leader, according to Reuters.
The majority of the world's Muslims are Sunnis, with Shiite populations dominate in Iran, Iraq Bahrain, and other areas within countries throughout the region.
Today's violence also comes a day after events marking the ninth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.