Iraqi justice ministry targeted by bombers as series of blasts kill 24
LIKE murderous thunderclaps, four bombs tore through central Baghdad yesterday, reducing the Iraqi justice ministry to a burning wreck, shrouded in billowing smoke, and killing at least 24 people.
The coordinated onslaught was the most ambitious attack on a government target since truck bombs almost destroyed the foreign ministry in 2009.
Coming only five days before the 10th anniversary of the Anglo-American invasion, it provided a vivid reminder of how Iraq remains torn by violence.
The scale of the killing has diminished since a bloody peak in 2006 to 2007, when the country was convulsed by a de facto civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims, but about 500 Iraqis still die during an average month.
Last week alone, 98 people were killed across the country in 31 separate bombings, including three suicide attacks. The number of monthly incidents has risen by about 15pc since the last US troops withdrew in December 2011.
Yesterday, the first bomb exploded at 1.10pm local time. Then followed a pause of 20 seconds. Then a second thunderous detonation took place, followed by a third.
Inside a secure room, below ground level and protected by heavy metal doors, a group of Iraqis and foreigners huddled for safety. After a decade of bombings, Iraqis might be thought inured to these incidents. Many are stoical and controlled enough to react only by mumbling prayers.
Yet one young woman was beside herself with terror, her eyes brimming with tears.
As she screamed in fear, the fourth explosion took place. It was the loudest of all: the blast shook the entire building.
Outside, two military helicopters thudded overhead, circling a telltale pillar of smoke rising from the street to the right of the justice ministry.
This appeared to be where the first bomb had destroyed a checkpoint. The next two blasts had also been targeted on the building's defences. The last – and strongest of all – had then detonated beside the justice ministry itself, setting the building on fire. (© Daily Telegraph, London)