Five massive vehicle-borne bombs rocked Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 127 people, including women and students, and wounding hundreds in the third co-ordinated massacre to devastate the city since August.
The attacks shattered a month of calm in the Iraqi capital and came hours before an official said the war-torn country’s general election, the second since the US-led ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein, would be held on March 6.
Baghdad’s top security officer said the attacks — four of which were conducted by suicide attackers driving cars or minibuses — and which targeted key government buildings, bore “the touch of Al Qaeda.”
One of the suicide bombers detonated his payload at an office of the finance ministry, another attacker struck at a tunnel leading to the labour ministry, and a third drove a four-wheel-drive car into a court building.
“The suicide bomber drove up to the court and the security forces tried to stop him by firing their Kalashnikovs, but they did not kill him before he exploded,” police sergeant Emad Fadhil told AFP.
A fourth suicide bomber in a car struck a police patrol in Dora, in southern Baghdad, causing 15 deaths, 12 of them students at a nearby technical college, an interior ministry official said.
The first explosion in the centre of Baghdad was heard at 10:25 am, another came within seconds and a third one minute later.
Although no group has yet claimed 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.
The interior ministry official said 127 people had been killed and 448 wounded in the bombings, with the finger of blame pointed at Al Qaeda.
Those caught up in Tuesday’s bombings described scenes of horror.
“I heard the sound of the explosion, I fainted, then I found myself on this bed covered with blood,” Um Saeed, whose arms and face were wounded in the court blast, told AFP at a local hospital, her clothes covered in blood.
An official at Medical City hospital in the centre of the capital said many of the 39 bodies they had received “had been blown apart,” and some of them were women.