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75 killed in Baghdad bomb carnage

world Updated: Aug 20, 2009 02:43 IST
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A series of devastating attacks across Baghdad killed at least 75 people on Wednesday, in the worst day of carnage to hit the Iraqi capital since US troops pulled out of the conflict-hit nation's cities.

Nearly 400 people were also wounded in two massive truck bombings outside government ministries, including one near the heavily-fortified Green Zone, a car bombing and a spate of mortar attacks.

It was the bloodiest day in Iraq since February 2008, coinciding with the sixth anniversary of a truck bombing on the UN compound in Baghdad that killed UN special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 other people.

"I was in my home with my family when the roof collapsed on us," said Hamid, 46, who lives a few hundred metres from the foreign ministry compound which was targeted along with the finance ministry.

"The government promised us security would return but where is the security?"

One of the truck bombs exploded outside the foreign ministry in a residential area close to the Green Zone sending plumes of smoke and dust into the air, leaving a crater three metres (10 feet) deep and 10 metres in diameter filled with the twisted wreckage of dozens of cars and several charred corpses.

The walls of the ministry compound in the Salhiyeh district were destroyed and its facade badly damaged, while cars were buckled and burnt for hundreds of metres.

The bombing also destroyed water tanks on houses near the ministry, sending water gushing into homes.

Another truck bomb struck outside the finance ministry in Baghdad's northern neighbourhood of Waziriyah, destroying part of a bridge near the ministry compound, and left more than 200 injured, nearby hospitals said.

Officials from the interior and defence ministries said 47 people were killed at the foreign ministry, while the finance ministry attack left 28 dead.

"We accuse the Baathist alliance of executing these terrorist operations," said Major General Qassim Atta, the spokesman for the Iraqi Army's Baghdad operations, referring to the party of executed former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Atta said the attacks at the finance and foreign ministries were truck bombings, and added that security forces had arrested two senior Al-Qaeda leaders in the Mansur neighbourhood of western Baghdad.

A car bomb also hit a market in the western neighbourhood of Bayaa, killing two people and wounding five, a defence ministry official said, while two mortars landed in the Green Zone -- an area of foreign embassies and government offices -- and one exploded outside, a security official said.

A tally of tolls distributed from Baghdad hospitals indicated that around 370 people were injured in Wednesday's violence.

The attacks -- shortly before Muslims are due to begin the holy fasting month of Ramadan later this week -- pushed the city to a standstill as security forces shot into the air and closed off roads, while ambulances struggled to make progress amid traffic jams.

It was the bloodiest day in the capital since February 1, 2008, when bombs at Baghdad pet markets left 98 people dead.

Recent attacks in the capital have appeared to target various ethnic groups in a bid to spark sectarian violence, which engulfed Iraq in 2006 and 2007, but no such intra-communal bloodshed appears yet to have been sparked.

Wednesday's violence comes exactly six years to the day after a truck bomb struck the UN offices at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, killing 22 people including de Mello.

Despite a reduction in violence in recent months, attacks on security forces and civilians remain common in Baghdad, the restive northern city of Mosul and in the ethnically divided oil city of Kirkuk.

The number of violent deaths fell by a third last month to 275 from 437 in June, following the pullout of US forces from urban areas on June 30.

The figure for May was 155, the lowest of any month since the US-led invasion of 2003.