Al Qaeda in Iraq ally claims bombings

<div data-recalc-dims=A man in Baghdad, Iraq, walks past the scene of one of Sunday’s deadly bombings.

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An umbrella group affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility Tuesday for a pair of weekend bombings that killed 160 people in Baghdad.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who visited the scene shortly after the explosions, said holding the elections as scheduled would send a strong message to the attackers. “The cowardly attack … should not affect the determination of the Iraqi people from continuing their battle against the deposed regime and the gangs of the criminal Baath party, and the terrorist al Qaeda organization,'” al-Maliki said in a written statement. President Obama called the attacks an attempt to derail progress in Iraq and pledged to work closely with the country as it prepares for elections. Obama spoke with the prime minister and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to express his condolences and reiterate U.S. support. The August attacks led to tightened security in Baghdad, including the addition of blast walls and security checkpoints. Watch Iraqis lash out in anger at government Sunday’s attacks were the deadliest on Iraqi civilians since three truck bombings killed hundreds in August 2007 in Qahtaniya in northern Iraq. Iraqis are supposed to go to the polls in January, but passage of an election law is needed first. Late Monday, Iraqi leaders reached tentative agreement on a draft of such a law. U.S. and Iraqi government officials say the election is a vital step in Iraqi efforts to solidify a democratic system in the post-Saddam Hussein era.CNN’s Saad Abedine contributed to this report.