The Iraqi government yesterday declared a state of emergency for 60 days throughout the country except for Kurdish-run areas in the north as US and Iraqi forces prepare for an expected all-out assault on rebels in Fallujah.
Heavy explosions were heard in Baghdad as the announcement was being made by government spokesman Thair Hassan al-Naqeeb, who said interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi would give more details today.
"It is going to be a curfew. It is going to be so many things, but tomorrow the prime minister will mention it," he said.
He declined to say whether the announcement signaled an imminent attack on the insurgent stronghold Fallujah, saying "We have seen the situation is worsening in this area. Any obstacle will be removed."
The statement came as insurgents escalated a wave of violence, attacking police stations, gunning down government officials and setting off bombs yesterday in central Iraq that left more than 50 people dead and more than 60 others injured in two days.
A few hours later, the Interior Ministry said that a car bomb had exploded near the home of Iraq's finance minister.
The wave of violence sweeping the troubled Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad, may be aimed at relieving pressure on Fallujah, where about 10,000 US troops are massing for a major assault if Allawi gives the order.
At dawn yesterday, armed rebels launched deadly attacks against police stations in western Anbar Province, leaving 22 people dead, according to police and hospital officials. At least seven of those killed were policemen, who were lined up and shot execution style.
Using bombs and small arms fire, insurgents hit three police stations in the neighboring towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah, 220km northwest of Baghdad, said Captain Nasser Abdullah of the K3 police station in Haqlaniyah.
Also yesterday, three Diyala provincial officials were gunned down south of Baghdad as they were on their way to a funeral in Karbala for a fourth colleague assassinated earlier this week.
Governor's aide Jassim Mohammed was killed along with Diyala provincial council members, Shihab Ahmed and Dureid Mohammed, an Iraqi official said.
A series of multiple explosions also echoed in and near Baghdad yesterday. Residents reported grenades setting police cars aflame on Haifa Street in the heart of the city and attacks on US military convoys in western Baghdad.
An 11am attack on a convoy west of Baghdad killed one US soldier and wounded another with the 81st Brigade Combat Team, the US command said. Secondary explosions at the scene came from the cargo the convoy was carrying.
The US military confirmed a car bomb hit a US convoy west of Baghdad at 11:40pm. No injuries or casualties have been reported yet in that attack.
Eyewitnesses also reported assailants opening fire at a US convoy passing through a tunnel in the Khadhra district in western Baghdad. US troops sealed off the roads leading to the scene.
Multiple sets of explosions rocked central Baghdad throughout the day.
Meanwhile, Marines fired a barrage of artillery at rebel positions inside Fallujah early yesterday and clashed with insurgents carrying AK-47s, killing at least 16.
Two US soldiers were wounded at midnight at a checkpoint near Fallujah, the US military said.
US jets have been pounding the rebel bastion for days, launching its heaviest airstrikes in six months on Saturday -- including five 225kg bombs dropped on insurgent targets. Warplanes destroyed five weapons caches after nightfall Saturday.