Two car bombs kill scores in downtown Baghdad

Two explosions ripped apart government buildings in Baghdad on Sunday morning for the second time in two months, killing at least 65, wounding 450 more and demonstrating once again that insurgents maintain the capacity to mount-large scale attacks in the heart of the capital.

The blasts, one from a car bomb and the other possibly a truck bomb, targeted the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad Governorate in central Baghdad. Both buildings are close to the Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry, which were blown up in August, killing 132 people and wounding up to 600. Security had been tightened sharply across Baghdad in the wake of the earlier blasts, which eroded confidence in the Iraqi government’s security gains ahead of national elections in January.
The explosion at the Governorate was about 500m from the site of the Foreign Ministry blast.

Dozens of people remained trapped in the wreckage of the two buildings, with emergency crews unable to reach them through tonnes of destroyed masonry and shattered glass. The bombs detonated within seconds of each other shortly after 10.30am. Displaced families queueing for compensation in the wake of the sectarian war were among the victims of the Governorate attack. Justice Ministry employees, including a large number of judges and lawyers appeared to make up the bulk of the victims at the second site.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been campaigning heavily on the gains of Iraq’s police and military, especially since the withdrawal of American troops from city streets on 30 June. He blamed Syrian government figures for harbouring former leaders of Iraq’s ousted Ba’ath party after the August attacks, but has not publicly revealed evidence linking the Ba’athists to the blasts. American and British officials said at the time that the attacks bore many hallmarks of an al-Qaeda in Iraq strike. The Sunni insurgent network that aligns with the world view of Osama bin Laden has been trying various means to undermine the legitimacy of the Iraqi regime and was widely expected to ramp up violence ahead of the national poll.

Cars lay blackened along streets outside both ministries. After the August blasts, trucks carrying loads larger than one tonne were banned from city streets before 4pm. -

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