Dozens killed in Baghdad attacks
Find a Conversation
|Wed, 08-19-2009 - 10:11am|
Truck bombs and a barrage of mortars have killed at least 75 people and hurt at least 310 in central Baghdad in the deadliest series of attacks in months.
One vehicle exploded outside the foreign ministry near the perimeter of the heavily guarded government Green Zone, reportedly leaving a huge crater.
Another blast went off close to the finance ministry building.
While Baghdad is often hit by attacks, it is unusual for them to penetrate such well-fortified areas of the city.
Since Iraqi forces took over responsibility for security in the city in late June, most attacks have targeted poor Shia neighbourhoods, says the BBC's Natalia Antelava in Baghdad.
The level of violence in Iraq has fallen since the peaks of 2006 and 2007, but bomb attacks remain commonplace.
Hospital and security officials say 75 people were killed and 310 injured in Wednesday morning's apparently co-ordinated attacks.
Two huge bombs - believed to have been hidden in trucks - went off, sending plumes of black smoke into the sky.
The biggest blast was near the foreign ministry, just outside the Green Zone. It was powerful enough to break windows at the parliament building inside the Zone which houses government and diplomatic buildings, reports said.
It left a crater 3m (10 feet) deep and 10m in diameter, and left behind the smouldering wreckage of cars outside, reports said.
"The windows of the foreign ministry shattered, slaughtering the people inside," Asia, a ministry employee, told Reuters news agency.
"I could see ministry workers, journalists and security guards among the dead," she said.
Minutes earlier, another blast close to the finance ministry in another hitherto relatively safe area of the city is reported to have affected a raised highway nearby.
At least four other explosions went off in other parts of Baghdad, including the Bayaa district of southern Baghdad.
Several mortars fell inside the Green Zone itself.
"Everybody on the street was going crazy," Mustapha Muhie, who works near the Green Zone as an administrator, told the BBC.
"Nobody knew what was going on. Everybody was just trying to get to their cars, just trying to get home - and that's what I did. There was so much traffic in the streets, and the checkpoints. They were searching every car, stopping everybody and asking stuff. A road that takes me 10 minutes to get home today took me an hour.
"My whole family was really upset, they were terrified. And everybody is scared that things will get worse, just like before."
An Iraqi army spokesman said two al-Qaeda members had been arrested in a Baghdad district in connection with the attacks.
The wave of explosions occurred just as Prime Minister Nouri Maliki was about to arrive at a nearby hotel to hold a news conference, which was cancelled.
BBC News, Baghdad
For many people, these attacks confirm their worst fears over the withdrawal of US troops from cities across Iraq at the end of June and handing over of the security situation to Iraqi forces. A lot of people before the withdrawal were saying they were very fearful that attacks would rise.
The government said they were in full control - but attacks like these, in what should be a very safe, very well-protected area of Baghdad will certainly shed some very serious doubts on these assurances.
There have been no official accusations about who is behind the attacks, or claims of responsibility.
But in the past, the government has blamed al-Qaeda linked Sunni insurgents - and they might again be blamed for these attacks, given that government buildings were the clear target, our correspondent says.
The violence comes exactly six years after one of the first major attacks in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
On 19 August 2003, the UN headquarters in Baghdad was hit by a suicide truck bomb, killing 22 people in what was the most deadly attack up until that point since the US-led invasion earlier that year.
The date was chosen for the UN's inaugural World Humanitarian Day.
The UN hopes the event will focus attention on aid workers and increase support for their role.
In the past six years, tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in the violence that followed.