Twin suicide blasts outside Baghdad bank kill 27


A double suicide bombing outside the headquarters of a major government bank Sunday killed 27 people and wounded 57 others, the second attack in a week to target Iraq’s financial institutions.

The bombers detonated two cars a few yards apart shortly before 11 a.m. outside the headquarters of the Trade Bank, police said. The blasts ripped off the glass facade of the building, which is on a busy street just west of Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. It also damaged nearby shops and residential homes.

Later, a suicide attack on a crowd in the northern city of Tikrit killed five people and wounded a dozen more.

The attack at the Baghdad bank raised speculation that the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which the U.S. military had blamed for most of the suicide bombings in the country, had recovered from the loss of its senior leadership in April and was embarking on a new strategy to undermine Iraq’s financial institutions.

“Al Qaeda is still operative, as we have seen in the past week,” said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. “They want to show that they are still in business after the killing of their top leaders.”

On June 13, gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed the headquarters of the Central Bank in downtown Baghdad, briefly overrunning the building and triggering a four-hour standoff with police. That attack left 24 people dead, including civilians, police and seven assailants.

The Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq organization claimed responsibility for the Central Bank assault, which was more reminiscent of attacks on government institutions staged by the Taliban in Kabul than previous Al Qaeda attacks in Iraq.

The Islamic State of Iraq’s top two leaders, Abu Ayyub Masri and Abu Omar Baghdadi, were killed by a U.S.-Iraqi force in April, at a time when dozens more ranking leaders were being rounded up or killed.

The attacks on banks have fueled widespread rumors that an attempt is being made to destroy evidence related to high-level corruption as Iraq’s politicians haggle over the formation of a new government after March’s parliamentary elections. The Trade Bank was established under the U.S. occupation authority in 2003 and was responsible for handling all transactions relating to Iraq’s overseas trade.

But Hussein Uzri, the bank’s chairman, dismissed such speculation. All of the bank’s records are kept electronically, he says, and could not be destroyed by a bombing or fire. He said the bank would resume operations at a different location Monday.

“It’s a terrorist attack to disrupt normal life here,” he said. “It’s because of the bank’s central role in the economy.”

Five bank guards were killed in the assault. The others slain by the suicide bombers were Iraqis who lived or worked nearby or who happened to be passing through the neighborhood, Uzri said.

Redha is a Times staff writer.