Deadly blasts kill 36 in Baghdad

Deadly blasts kill 36 in Baghdad

Ali Hassan al-Majid alias ‘Chemical Ali’, first cousin of Saddam Hussein. AFP

The blasts — coming in a span of about 15 minutes in downtown Baghdad — came shortly before state television announced that Ali Hassan al-Majid had been hanged.
There was no claim of responsibility for the latest major attacks in Baghdad. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the latest bombings “represent an extension” of the activities of insurgents linked to Saddam’s regime.

The first explosion struck at about 3:40 pm in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel, toppling high concrete blast walls protecting the site and damaging a number of buildings along the Abu Nawas esplanade across the Tigris River from the Green Zone. Two other blasts followed minutes later, striking near the Babylon Hotel and al-Hamra Hotel.

Officials said the death toll was expected to rise. According to initial tallies, 15 of the victims were at the al-Hamra, 14 at the Sheraton, and the remaining seven died at the Babylon, including two policemen.

Outside the Sheraton, a high-rise tower with views of the Tigris River and the fortified Green Zone on the other side, the blast left a 10-foot-deep crater in the parking lot. Cars were torn apart by the spray of metal and glass, which littered the lawns and courtyards of the popular fish restaurants along the river.

Iraqi police sealed the area and Iraqi helicopters circled overhead. At the al-Hamra, two men in a car opened fire on guards at the hotel checkpoint before detonating the explosives, a third police official said.

Government spokesman al-Dabbagh confirmed the execution of “Chemical Ali”, but did not give other details. The execution took place about a week after he was sentenced to death for the poison gas attacks that killed more than 5,000 in the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988.

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