At least 127 killed as explosions rock Baghdad


Car bombs exploded amid busy streets and official buildings in Baghdad this morning, killing at least 127 people and wounding 450 more, in the latest assault on the Iraqi government by militants, according to police officials.

Four car bombs shook the city on its eastern and western sides in the span of about 30 minutes, starting around 10:10 am, police officials said. One blast gutted portions of the city’s main courthouse on the western side of the Tigris River; another lay waste to a street in front of makeshift offices for the Iraqi finance ministry, which had been forced to move employees after a powerful bombing in August; a third car bomb exploded at a busy intersection as a U.S. convoy passed by; and a fourth car bomb ripped a main street in the mostly Sunni district of Dura.

It was the third major assault on Baghdad’s state institutions since August, when a pair of car bombs rocked the foreign and finance ministries, killing at least 100; in late October, a pair of car bombs hammered Iraq’s ministry of justice, the ministry of municipality and Baghdad’s provincial council -- all three buildings located within the span of a city block -- and claimed the lives of at least 155 people.

Those attacks sabotaged the workings of the government, with some ministries forced to move employees to temporary facilities, and robbed the government of credibility that security had returned to Baghdad. Today’s blasts came barely a day after the Iraqi parliament approved a law to hold national elections and marred the day’s announcement by the Iraqi government that the national vote will be held March 6.

Previous attacks in August and October have been blamed by government officials on both the late dictator Saddam Husssein’s Baath party and Al Qaeda in Iraq. But it is virtually impossible to know who really is to blame. The government arrested army and police officers after the previous attacks, accusing them of carelessness or even collaboration with those behind the explosions.

Survivors today expressed shock. “I never felt so scared in my life. I lived through wars and served in the military, but today was so terrifying. Many people were killed and wounded. Men, women, police and children who sell things, all were killed and injured,” said Abu Haidar, a shopkeeper in the crowded Shurja district, where the finance ministry’s offices were targeted.

A bomb device also exploded as a police patrol drove by and wounded four civilians in eastern Baghdad, police said.

Staff writer Mohammed Arrawi contributed to this report