/ 19 August 2009

Baghdad rocked by series of deadly bomb blasts

A series of explosions killed at least 75 people and wounded more than 300 in central Baghdad on Wednesday, the deadliest day in the Iraqi capital since United States troops withdrew from urban centres in June.

At least six bombs and mortar rounds struck near government ministries and other sensitive targets in quick succession, the latest in a series of attacks in the capital and Iraq’s north that raised doubts about the ability of Iraqi security forces to cope without US help.

One blast shattered windows in Iraq’s Parliament building in the heavily guarded Green Zone government and diplomatic complex, television footage showed. It occurred near the Foreign Ministry, just outside the Green Zone.

”The windows of the Foreign Ministry shattered, slaughtering the people inside. I could see ministry workers, journalists and security guards among the dead,” said a distraught ministry employee who gave her name as Asia.

The Baghdad government said this month most of the city’s blast walls would be removed within 40 days, a sign of confidence in its security forces ahead of national elections due in January.

Wednesday’s violence undermined confidence in the government’s ability to ensure security, on which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has staked his reputation.

The blast site near the Foreign Ministry was a twisted heap of smouldering cars as firefighters fought to put out the flames. Police said it involved a truck bomb.

Such coordinated large-scale explosions near heavily guarded state buildings are relatively rare.

Mostly Shi’ite Muslim venues such as mosques have been targeted by bombings in the past two months in the capital and northern Iraq, where insurgents such as al-Qaeda have exploited disputes between the region’s Kurds and Arabs.

Attack foiled
Baghdad’s security spokesperson, Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, said Iraqi forces had foiled another car bomb attack and had arrested two members of al-Qaeda.

A truck bomb in Baghdad’s Waziriya district near the Finance Ministry killed three people and wounded seven, and caused widespread destruction, police said. Part of a raised highway near the building collapsed, a Reuters witness said.

Another explosion was close enough to Reuters’s offices in central Baghdad’s Karrada district to burst open windows and doors. Columns of smoke could be seen rising from several sites.

The Baghdad provincial government building came under mortar attack, police said.

In south Baghdad’s Bayaa district, a blast killed two people and wounded five.

Mortars landed in the Salhiya district of central Baghdad, home to army bases and the offices of a national television station.

At least one mortar landed near the United Nations compound in the Green Zone, startling UN workers marking the sixth anniversary of the destruction of their previous Baghdad headquarters by a truck bomb that killed envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and other staff, UN guards said. — Reuters