Dozens killed as bombers target Baghdad embassies
SUICIDE attackers detonated three car bombs in quick succession near foreign embassies in Baghdad yesterday, killing more than 40 people in co-ordinated strikes.
The attacks were seen as part of a campaign to disrupt efforts to form a new government.
The bombings followed the execution-style killings of 24 villagers in a Sunni area two days earlier.
The major upsurge in violence suggests rebels are exploiting the political uncertainty after the recent election to try to destabilise the country as US troops prepare to leave. No clear winner emerged from the March 7 vote.
Yesterday's explosions went off within minutes of each other, starting shortly after 11am. One struck near the Iranian Embassy and two others hit an area that houses several diplomatic missions, including the Egyptian Consulate and the German and Spanish embassies. It was not immediately known whether diplomatic staff were among the victims.
Authorities said they foiled two other attacks aimed at diplomatic targets by stopping the would-be bombers' vehicles and defusing the explosives.
Stunned victims in bloody clothes were loaded into ambulances as grey smoke rose over Baghdad.
"I saw children screaming," said Hassan Karim (32), who owns a clothing shop in Baghdad. "Cars were crashing into each other in streets, trying to find a way to flee."
The attackers wore suicide vests and drove cars laden with explosives, said Maj Gen Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the city's operations command centre.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although multiple, co-ordinated bombings in the capital are a hallmark of al-Qa'ida in Iraq. The violence suggests insurgents are trying to regroup in the political vacuum left after the elections.
Former prime minister Ayad Allawi's cross-sectarian bloc tapped into heavy Sunni support to come in just two seats ahead of the mainly Shiite list of the incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. But neither side has enough seats to govern alone, which means they are scrambling to cobble together enough parliamentary support to form a government.
Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the bombings were an attempt to inject more turmoil into the political scene as the election front-runners try to forge a coalition government.
"These terrorists will not be able to stop Iraqis from building a free, secure and prosperous future," the ministry said.