Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The moment one of the bombs exploded

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 shatter 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, reported AFP news agency.

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 - possibly mortars - went off in other parts of Baghdad.

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.

Natalia Antelava
Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Baghdad

These are unusual attacks - in the last few weeks, we have seen explosions in Baghdad, but these attacks occurred in some of the supposedly safest neighbourhoods of the city.

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.

In the past six years, tens of thousands have been killed in the violence that followed.



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