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Three Baghdad Blasts Kill At Least 36


Smoke rises into the sky following an explosion in the area near Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad on June 25, one of at least three deadly explosions.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Three large explosions have rocked central Baghdad, killing at least 36 people, according to police, and ending a 1 1/2-month lull in coordinated assaults on the Iraqi capital as the country heads into March elections.

At least 71 people were wounded in the three separate attacks, police said.

One bomb blast appeared to have occurred at the entrance of the Ishtar Sheraton hotel, a Baghdad landmark on the eastern side of the Tigris River, and the shock wave blew open doors and sent a cloud of dust into the Reuters offices nearby.

A cloud of debris rose from the blast site as ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene and police and soldiers blocked off entry. TV images showed that towering concrete blastwalls protecting the hotel had fallen like dominoes.

The hotel has not been a regular hotel for years and largely houses company offices and some media organizations, but some adventurous international tour groups began using it last year.

A second bomb appeared to have blown up near the Babylon hotel, which is used by Iraqi travelers and sometimes for government meetings.

"There were three explosions, one near the Sheraton hotel the other near the Babylon hotel. The third we are checking into," said Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qasim al-Musawi.

A police source said the third explosion occurred somewhere near Al-Nahrain University in central Baghdad, but details were not yet available.

The last major attack on Baghdad occurred on December 8 when a series of car bombs killed more than 100 people.