Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bomb Blasts Kill At Least 95 In Baghdad


The scene of a massive explosion outside the Foreign Ministry in a residential area of central Baghdad.

(RFE/RL) -- A series of explosions has killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 400 in central Baghdad.

Reports say at least six bombs and mortar rounds struck near government ministries and other targets in quick succession.

RFE/RL Radio Free Iraq correspondent Saad Kamel says the worst blast was caused by a car bomb near the Foreign Ministry, which accounted for most of the deaths and injuries.

"It was a medium-size truck loaded with a big quantity of explosives. The explosion destroyed the facade of the Foreign Ministry," Kamel reports. "Other residential buildings in the area of Salhya were also damaged."

Police and rescue workers say they expect the death toll to rise even further as they pick through the rubble.

The midmorning series of attacks began near the Finance Ministry, which suffered two explosions, and then minutes later came the Foreign Ministry bombing. Mortar rounds struck inside the Green Zone shortly after.

Another two blasts came in the city's Baiyaa and Bab al-Muadham commercial districts.

"I personally saw more than 40 bodies," Kamel says, describing the scene outside the Foreign Ministry. "In fact, there was a slow response from the firefighters to pull the victims out and to put out the fire. They were busy pushing back people and preventing journalists from taking pictures while bodies were burning in cars."

These are the most serious attacks to hit Baghdad since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi urban areas on June 30, in preparation for the coming withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by 2011.

Premature Withdrawl?

The scale of the violence raises fresh fears about the ability of the Iraqi authorities to cope with security concerns without U.S. troops.

There has been a general escalation of violence in Iraq in the weeks since the U.S. forces left, mainly aimed at Shi'ite Muslim targets.

In Washington, the White House condemned the attacks, calling them "shocking" and "deplorable." But spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed questions from reporters about whether the violence is proof that the U.S. withdrawl from urban areas was premature, or that Iraqi security forces aren't up to the task.

“The number of attacks is at or near an all-time low. There will always be those that believe they can or should heard only through this type of violence," Gibbs said.

"It’s obvious that the vast number of Iraqis believe, and want to live, in peace and security. We will continue to assist the Iraqis in securing their country until the agreements denote that it’s time for us to go,” he added.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly called the attacks "an attempt to undermine the progress that Iraqi institutions and security forces have worked hard to achieve" and said the United States doesn't believe they will deter Iraqis "from continuing their efforts to build a peaceful and prosperous society."