On the heels of new election law, at least 127 killed in Baghdad blasts

December 09, 2009|By Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Usama Redha | Tribune Newspapers

BAGHDAD — — As Iraqi officials prepared to announce a new date for long-delayed national elections, car bombs detonated at government buildings and in crowded Baghdad streets Tuesday, killing at least 127 people and wounding about 500 more.

The attacks on state institutions appeared aimed at further eroding the Iraqi people's faith in the political process, which many already viewed with deep skepticism.

The morning blasts shook the eastern and western sides of the city over a span of about 30 minutes, gutting parts of the city's main courthouse on the western side of the Tigris River and other buildings. An ambulance, packed with explosives, detonated at a checkpoint for the makeshift offices of the Iraqi finance ministry, which had been forced to move after a bombing in August.

Other car bombs exploded at a busy intersection after a U.S. convoy passed and outside the gates of a technical institute.

At the western Baghdad courthouse, the rescue workers dug with shovels and hacked wires with axes until they uncovered the corpse of one of the men who had been lined up outside waiting to apply for a job. It had been close to 10:30 when the blue sports utility vehicle tore through the checkpoint into the parking lot and exploded, tearing down a corner of the building, smashing windows and tearing apart the building's metal roof.

Watching the procession, another rescuer yelled in reference to the last two major Baghdad bombings: "First it was bloody Wednesday; then bloody Sunday; now its bloody Tuesday. Soon they will cover every day of the week."

Politicians lashed out at each other over who to blame for the third major attack on government institutions in less than four months.

A pair of car bombs in late August badly damaged the foreign and finance ministries and a pair of car bombs in late October killed at least 155 people in addition to practically destroyed Iraq's ministry of justice, municipality ministry and Baghdad's provincial council.

Officials called Tuesday's attack a direct response to parliament's adoption of an election law late Sunday night, after an acrimonious debate over the number of seats in parliament for different groups. The dispute delayed elections, which government officials announced Tuesday are now scheduled March 7.

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