At least 36 die in three car bombings in Iraq
Blasts are worst since US ended its combat role
BAGHDAD — Three car bombs tore through Baghdad and the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah yesterday, killing at least 36 people. The blasts in the capital were so powerful they sheared the sides off buildings and left chunks of rubble on the streets.
The violence broke a period of relative calm since the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was the worst to strike Iraq since the number of American troops in the country dropped below 50,000 and the United States declared a formal end to combat operations.
It also underlines the challenges Iraq’s police and military face as they assume responsibility for security.
The deadliest attack yesterday took place in north Baghdad’s Kazimiyah neighborhood when a car bomb detonated near a branch office of the National Security Ministry in Adan Square, killing at least 21 people and wounding more than 70, police and hospital officials said.
“It was a big explosion, and dust and smoke filled my house,’’ said Abu Shahad, who lives about 200 yards from the blast site.
“I went out and saw a big black cloud hanging over the area where the bomb exploded, and I rushed there because I have relatives living there.’’
He said his cousin and her child were killed and another cousin was wounded in the blast.
At least 10 people were killed in another car bombing in western Baghdad’s affluent Mansour neighborhood, said Army Brigadier General Ali Fadhal, who is responsible for the western half of the city. Ten people were wounded in the attack.
Fadhal said security officials were investigating whether the blast was the work of a suicide attacker in a car targeting a crowded commercial area near an AsiaCell store, one of Iraq’s biggest mobile phone providers.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.
The blast sheered off large sections of the concrete walls from the surrounding buildings, and debris was strewn in the street. Dozens of Iraqi Army and police officers cordoned off the area, keeping journalists away.
A witness working in an office near the Mansour blast site said he heard a huge explosion that shattered windows in his office and brought a section of the ceiling down on one customer.
“Dust and black smoke covered the area, and I thought that the car bomb exploded near our office,’’ said the man, who identified himself as Abu Haidar. He said he saw a lot of wounded people on the street and helped evacuate a child who had shrapnel wounds in his back.
He accused the government of failing to quell violence in the country. “I blame this tragedy only on the government officials who are competing for positions and letting us be victims of these bombings,’’ Abu Haidar said.
Iraq has gone more than six months now without a new government since inconclusive parliamentary elections in March.
While lawmakers continue to wrangle over who should head the next government, many Iraqis complain that the political deadlock has created a power vacuum that militants have successfully exploited.
Security officials could be seen roaming the blast site in Mansour as ambulances and other vehicles blocked the road leading to the checkpoint near a Ministry of National Security branch office that police say was targeted.
In Fallujah, a suicide attacker in a car struck an Iraqi Army patrol in the city’s busy commercial district, killing one Iraqi soldier and four civilians, according to police and hospital officials. At least 15 people were wounded in the attack.
Fallujah is a former stronghold of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency, 40 miles west of Baghdad.
The violence occurred nearly three weeks after the number of American soldiers in Iraq fell below 50,000. The remaining US troops primarily train and assist Iraqi security forces in hunting down suspected militants, although they have continued to engage militants since the official end of combat.
Last week, 12 people were killed when insurgents attacked a military command center in central Baghdad and drew US forces into a firefight.
Insurgents have intensified their strikes over the summer, targeting Iraqi security forces and government institutions despite a network of checkpoints around Baghdad.