Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Security tight in Baghdad for Arab summit

Over 100,000 security guards have been deployed to Baghdad days before an Arab League summit. Airspace around the city has been closed until Thursday 29 March, and security personnel are already patrolling the streets and stop-searching vehicles.

The meeting is expected to focus on the crisis in Syria, but the occasion will also be a test for Iraq's government following the on-going violence of recent months. There have been a number of bomb attacks across the country since US troops withdrew at the end of December 2011.

Over 50 people were killed in the most recent series of co-ordinated attacks on Tuesday, the deadliest of which struck the cities of Karbala and Kirkuk.

It is estimated that between $400-500million have been spent refurbishing facilities and on security measures as this is an opportunity for Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to show how the country is progressing since US troops left last year.

The focus of the main meeting itself is likely to be Syria and what further pressure Arab leaders can put on the government of Bashar al-Assad, who has not been invited.

National security official Safa Hussein told the AFP news agency that the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes al-Qa'ida in Iraq, was planning an attack, but added: "We think security will go well."

Sources: BBC News, Bloomberg, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

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