Suicide attacks kill 50 in Iraq

Three car bombs target Iranian and Egyptian embassies; 200 injured

Suicide attacks kill 50 in Iraq

An Iraqi soldier inspects the site of a car bomb attack near the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday. AP

Officials said the near-simultaneous blasts injured around 200 people while witnesses reported mayhem in central Baghdad as ambulances and emergency workers raced to the sites of the explosions.

“They were suicide attacks against the Egyptian and Iranian embassies,” said Major General Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Iraqi security forces’ Baghdad operations.

He said one of the bombings may also have been targeting the residence of the German embassy. Atta said Iraqi security forces stopped a car primed with a bomb in Masbah, in central Baghdad, apparently which was to be used in an attack on the headquarters of security police tasked with protecting foreign embassies. The driver was arrested and the bomb defused, he said.

The explosions occurred within minutes of each other, shattering windows in nearby buildings, sparking bursts of gunfire and sending large plumes of smoke billowing across the Iraqi capital.

Two suicide vehicle bombs battered the diplomatic west Baghdad neighbourhood of Mansur followed soon afterwards by a third huge explosion in front of the Iranian embassy in the centre of the city.

Said Mohammed, who was close to the blast which badly damaged the Egyptian embassy, said guards had tried to stop the attacker. “Three security guards shouted at the truck to stop moving, and opened fire on the driver,” said Mohammed.

Shards of glass covered the street in front of the embassy building, whose entrance was ravaged by a crater five metres in diameter. “The explosion (at the Iranian embassy) was really strong,” said Abu Ahmed, a taxi driver who was inside a shop at the time of the blast.

Staff safe

Egyptian and Iranian officials said the attacks on their missions caused no casualties among their staff. “In this blast... fortunately none of the Iranian embassy employees have been hurt, but the embassy building is heavily damaged,” Kazem Sheikh Forutan, Iran’s charge d’affaires in Baghdad was quoted as telling the Fars news agency.

The Iranian official described the blasts as an act by “enemies of the two nations” of Iraq and Iran. In Cairo, the Egyptian foreign ministry in a brief statement said there were no victims at its Baghdad embassy.

Sunday’s blasts follow major sets of co-ordinated vehicle bombs in the Iraqi capital in August, October, December and January.

They came as Iraqi political parties negotiate to form a government, nearly a month after
a general election that left four main blocs, none with sufficient seats to form a parliamentary majority on their own.

Security officials have warned that a protracted period of coalition building could give insurgents an opportunity to further destabilise Iraq.

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