Wed, Dec 16, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Baghdad reels from wave of attacks

RUSH HOUR Car bombs in parking lots began exploding at around 7:30am. A fourth bomb was defused before it exploded near a checkpoint leading to the Green Zone

AFP , BAGHDAD

Three car bombs struck the heart of Baghdad yesterday, killing four people, in the fourth wave of coordinated attacks in as many months, days after top ministers were quizzed in parliament over security.

Fourteen people were wounded in the blasts, which came in quick succession during the height of the morning rush hour, an interior ministry official said.

The first bomb exploded in a car park opposite the Iranian embassy around 7:30am, the second minutes later near the foreign ministry and the third soon after in a car park by the ministry for emigrants and displaced persons.

“Dear God, how on earth do the police and soldiers let these booby-trapped vehicles through,” said Um Ali, whose son Maki, 28, works in the car park hit by the third bomb and who was seriously wounded in the blast.

“A man left his car this morning and headed off almost at a run. When my son approached the vehicle, it blew up,” she said, crumpled on the pavement.

Baraa al-Saraj, 26, who works inside the nearby Green Zone, the highly protected compound which houses the US and British embassies as well as government offices, said the bomb was clearly targeted at civil servants.

“Generally, it’s staff of the ­defense and emigres ministries who park here,” he said.

Police sappers were able to defuse a fourth booby-trapped vehicle left near a checkpoint on a road leading into the Green Zone.

“We found three anti-tank mines and four makeshift bombs inside concealed under the seats and in the doors,” a police major general at the scene, declining to give his name.

“It’s a red van of 2009 vintage registered in Baghdad in the name of one Ali Sahib,” the police officer said without elaborating on whether the vehicle had been ­reported stolen.

It was the fourth time since August that bombers had succeeded in attacking official buildings in the Iraqi capital despite the security measures in place.

On Aug. 19 a double suicide attack against the foreign and finance ministries killed 106 people and wounded some 600.

On Oct. 25 it was the turn of the justice ministry and a provincial office, with the blasts killing 153 people and wounding more than 500.

And on Dec. 8 five attacks in Baghdad killed 127 and wounded 448.

Yesterday’s blasts came just days after MPs grilled government ministers and other top security officials over the repeated breaches in several days of hearings.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself appeared before parliament last week. MPs criticized the lack of coordination between different ministries but the prime minister blamed MPs for not approving more funds.

The commander of US forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, predicted a rise in the number of attacks ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for March 7.

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