Six bombs rocked Baghdad, killing at least 35 people, the second time the capital has come under attack in three days, fuelling fears insurgents are making a return due to a political impasse.
The explosions destroyed residential buildings in mostly Shiite neighbourhoods, and a security spokesman said Iraq was in an “open war” with the remnants of Al-Qaeda and loyalists of executed dictator Saddam Hussein.
“Six bomb attacks in several neighbourhoods of Baghdad occurred, and seven buildings collapsed,” an interior ministry official told AFP.
Up to 35 dead
The official said 35 people were killed and 140 wounded, but several victims are thought to be trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Ambulance sirens were heard across the city as emergency service workers rushed to the scenes of the blasts, and a large plume of smoke rose from near a destroyed building in the neighbourhood of Allawi, central Baghdad.
The building housed several apartments with shopfronts on its ground floor, and heavy machinery was being used to lift large pieces of rubble in a bid to find those buried under the collapsed structure.
Citizens gathered to help with rescue
Dozens of passersby gathered at the site of the blast, close to a secondary school, to sort through the rubble in hopes of rescuing survivors as military helicopters flew overhead.
“I was picking up bricks and sand to find victims, and just when I succeeded to remove the rubble, the man I saw died,” said a 25-year-old man who gave his name only as Mustafa.
“His wife came to me to see if I had seen him, and I told her he died.”
An army officer in Allawi said that three days ago, two unidentified men approached the owner of the destroyed building wanting to rent one of the unused shopfronts for a falafel restaurant.
“Yesterday, they brought lots of equipment, and today there has been an explosion in that shop,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We have sent someone to find the owner.”
Bombs hit north and south Baghdad
Along with the Allawi blast, which destroyed two buildings, two bombs struck Shurta Rabiyah, west Baghdad, while at least one detonated in Chikouk, which houses a camp for internally displaced persons in the north of the capital.
Bombs also hit Shuala, north Baghdad, and Al-Amil in the south.
“We are in a war. In our case, it is an open war with remnants of Al-Qaeda and the Baath” party of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta told Al-Arabiya television.
“There has been support for terrorist groups from outside Iraq, from people who don’t want to see the political process be a success,” Atta added.
The latest explosions come after three suicide vehicle bombings minutes apart targeted regional and European embassies, killing 30 people and wounding more than 200 on Sunday.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who said Sunday’s attacks bore the signature of Al-Qaeda, attributed those bombings to groups who wanted to derail the formation of a new government.
‘This is a political attack’
“This is a political attack, aimed at derailing the process, sending a message that the terrorists are still in business,” Zebari told AFP on Sunday.
“Because of the vacuum of forming the next government, they wanted to send that message.”
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance finished with 89 seats in the 325-member parliament after March 7 parliamentary elections, two fewer than ex-premier Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc.
However, Allawi has accused Iran of seeking to prevent him becoming prime minister again by inviting all major parties to Tehran except his secular bloc.
Security officials had warned that protracted coalition building could give insurgents an opportunity to further destabilise the country.
In Damascus on Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned the “terrorist attacks” and pledged that Syria “stands alongside the brotherly people of Iraq.”
Although the frequency of attacks by insurgents has dropped significantly since peaking in 2006 and 2007, figures released on Thursday showed 367 Iraqis were killed in violence last month — the highest number this year.