95 killed in Baghdad attacks

Series of blasts the most ravaging since withdrawal of US forces from street patrols

95 killed in Baghdad attacks

A blaze rages in front of the Iraqi foreign minsitry building following a massive car bomb explosion in central Baghdad on Wednesday. AFP

At least 95 people were killed in a series of truck bombings and other attacks on Wednesday that rocked areas around official buildings in central Baghdad, wounding 560 people, the Interior Ministry said.

Taken together, the attacks were among the most devastating in Baghdad since the withdrawal of American forces from street patrols at the end of June.

The explosions, at least one of them close to the heavily fortified Green Zone security area, sent plumes of dark smoke billowing over the capital as the police and army units scrambled, closing two main bridges over the Tigris River.

Interior Ministry officials said that, within three minutes of each other around 11 am, two truck bombs struck the foreign and finance ministries. The blasts were so intense that parts of a main highway near the finance ministry collapsed, the officials said. At roughly the same time, three roadside bombs exploded in other parts of the city, wounding 10 people, they said.

A reporter for The New York Times described a scene of carnage at one of the sites — the Iraqi foreign ministry.

A suicide attacker had detonated a truck bomb alongside a wall around the ministry compound, according to an army officer at the scene. The blast brought the wall crashing down and left a 30-feet deep crater.

The bombing set fire to cars and other vehicles clogging the road outside the ministry, trapping their occupants in the inferno. The reporter saw at least one body still burning in a car while at least 12 others had been piled onto a pickup truck to be driven away. The blast shattered the front wall of 10-storey main building of the ministry, leaving offices wrecked and people trapped inside. The reporter saw six American soldiers take photographs at the wrecked ministry and then quickly leave.

Later, an American officer said the United States forces were constrained by the agreement under which they handed over security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces at the end of June. “As much as we want to come, we have to wait to be asked now,” he said.

US invasion

That did not assuage some Iraqis who blamed the 2003 American invasion for their nation’s perils and woes. “This country is finished,” said one resident, Jamil Jaber, 45, whose  house behind the foreign ministry had been flattened by the explosion, crushing to death a 4-month-old. “It’s just robbery and killing.” He then cursed the US and former president George W Bush. Across from the foreign ministry, an apartment building had been wrecked, injuring many inside. A woman on the sixth floor had been slashed by a ceiling fan that fell on her in the chaos, said Tariq Qader, who rescued her.

Nearby, a girls’ secondary school, closed for summer vacations, had collapsed, the reporter for The New York Times said. After the blast, Kurdish bodyguards protecting the foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, fanned out nervously into the streets outside. A first blast came shortly before 11 am, sending white smoke into the sky. But then, 10 minutes later, a more powerful blast shook another area of Baghdad near the foreign ministry, shattering windows inside the nearby Green Zone and shaking houses in many parts of the city.

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