x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

More than 100 dead in Baghdad blasts

Central Baghdad is rocked by five explosions in quick succession, killing 112 people and injuring 207.

Five powerful car bombs rocked Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 112 people, including women and students, and wounding 207 in the third co-ordinated massacre to devastate the capital since August. The attacks shattered a month of calm in the city and come as the war-torn country's leaders prepare to announce the date for a general election early next year, the second since the US-led ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein. Three car bombs exploded near offices of the labour, interior and finance ministries and a suicide attacker in a car struck a police patrol in Dora, in southern Baghdad, causing 15 deaths, an interior ministry official said. The first explosion in the centre of Baghdad was heard at 10:25 am (0725 GMT), another came within seconds and a third one minute later. Although no group has yet admitted responsibility, the timing of the blasts and the fact that three of them targeted government buildings bears all the hallmarks of an Al-Qaeda operation. Sporadic gunfire erupted after the explosions, followed by the sound of sirens from emergency vehicles as helicopters took to the skies and roads were cordoned off, causing gridlock across the city. The interior ministry official said 12 of those killed by the suicide attacker in Dora were students at a nearby technical college. The other three fatalities were policemen. The fifth car bomb targeted a courthouse in Mansur, western Baghdad. "Many of the 39 bodies we received had been blown apart," an official from Medical City hospital in the centre of the capital said. "Some of them were women." Violence across Iraq dropped dramatically last month, with the fewest deaths in attacks since the US-led invasion of 2003. Official figures showed a total of 122 people were killed in November.

However the Baghdad government and the US military have warned of a rise in attacks in the run up to a general election expected to take place in February. The threat of political violence linked to the election is a major concern for the Iraqi government and US forces after bloody attacks in Baghdad in August and October that killed more than 250 people. The attacks, including truck bombings outside the finance, foreign and justice ministries, punctured confidence in the Iraqi security forces. * AFP