Wed, Jan 27, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Car bomb wrecks Iraq forensics center

IN QUICK SUCCESSIONSix people were killed in the attack, which came hot on the heels of coordinated hotel bombings on Monday that killed at least 36 people

AP AND AFP , BAGHDAD

A suicide car bomber in Baghdad killed six people and destroyed Iraq’s forensics headquarters yesterday, officials said, a day after three huge minibus bombs targeting hotels killed dozens.

The explosion in the central neighborhood of Karrada also injured at least 45 people, with the toll expected to rise as many people were believed to be in the building at the time, an official said.

“The building collapsed soon after the explosion. Dozens of people usually work in the [forensics] institute,” he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A doctor at the Ibn Nafis hospital said that six bodies had been received and that 45 injured people had been admitted.

The attack was confirmed by Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad Major General Qassim Atta.

“At 10:45am a suicide bomber raced his vehicle towards the institute” and blew it up, Atta said.

He said the forensics institute had twice before been the target of bomb attacks.

The blast came a day after three huge and apparently coordinated minibus bombs targeted hotels in Baghdad, killing at least 36 people and wounding 71.

Iraqi politicians and US forces have warned of rising violence ahead of the March 7 vote, the second parliamentary ballot since the 2003 US-led invasion ousted former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein but ushered in a deadly and long-lasting insurgency.

The hotel bombings came on the same day the government announced that Saddam’s notorious cousin and henchman “Chemical” Ali Hassan al-Majid, a symbol of the fallen regime, had been executed.

Monday’s attacks differed from recent high-profile bombings in Baghdad in that they targeted hotels, one of the capital’s few ­remaining symbols of tourism, rather than government buildings.

Nearly 400 people were killed and more than 1,000 were wounded last year in coordinated vehicle bombings at government buildings, including the ministries of finance, foreign affairs and justice in August, October and December.

Insurgents, weakened in the past year, have in the past six months changed tactics and mounted successful attacks on “hard” targets such as government offices, rather than so-called soft targets in civilian areas.

ELECTION FEARS

There are widespread fears, in the wake of the bloody attacks to hit Baghdad in the second half of last year, that political violence will rise in the weeks leading up to the March vote.

The election is seen as a crucial step towards consolidating Iraq’s democracy and securing a complete US military exit by the end of next year, as planned.

However a bitter row has broken out in recent weeks after hundreds of candidates were banned from taking part because of their alleged links with Saddam, which could see Sunni Arabs marginalized from the political process.

The dispute has alarmed the US, and the latest bombings will add to Washington’s concerns.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said extremists were trying to upend progress toward democracy, while UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Iraqis to remain on a path to reconciliation despite persistent unrest that plagues the country.

HOTEL BLASTS

Monday’s hotel blasts were launched over a span of 15 minutes, shortly before Iraq announced it had hanged Saddam Hussein’s cousin and notorious henchman “Chemical Ali” and gave rise to speculation about possible links to the attacks.

The first explosion struck near the Sheraton Hotel, along the Abu Nawas esplanade across the Tigris River from the Green Zone. The force of the blast toppled a row of 3m, 7 tonne concrete blast walls protecting the site, tore cars apart and damaged a number of other buildings.

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