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Nearly 100 Killed, Hundreds More Injured in Baghdad Blasts

Attacks, including two bombings near the finance and foreign ministries, kill dozens of people and wound hundreds in the bloodiest day in Baghdad since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from cities.
Map of Baghdad

Samira Hachem was cooking in her apartment across the street from the Foreign Ministry when the blast shattered her windows. She was wounded in the head by a piece of furniture.

"All these things landed on top of me," she said, sitting on a sidewalk, looking dazed, her head bandaged. "These terrorists. Many innocent people were killed."

Ghazim Mohammed, 54, sat nearby looking at the shattered building. Two of his sons work there, and he had not been able to reach them, he said.

"Until now we are still waiting for them," he said. "They've disappeared."

Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, a spokesman for the Baghdad operations center, played down the significance of the attacks.

"What happened today was a security breach, and the security forces in these areas are responsible," he told the government-run Iraqia channel. "The satellite television networks are exaggerating this matter in an attempt to affect the political process. The situation remains under control, and the war against terrorism continues."

Iraq's top Shiite Muslim religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, issued a statement condemning the violence and calling on the security forces to do more to keep people safe.

The attacks came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a visit to neighboring Syria, hailed the readiness of Iraq's security forces.

Maliki asked Syrian officials to turn over former Baath Party leaders believed to be in that country. The former Baathists are accused of supporting the insurgency.

Maliki's government recently ordered the removal of blast walls along major roads. The area outside the Foreign Ministry is among those where security measures have been eased.

American explosives ordnance teams responded to both ministry bombings, and U.S. Apache helicopters could be seen hovering overhead.

Violence has increased in Iraq since the June 30 nominal withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities, primarily as a result of mass-casualty attacks in Baghdad and northern Iraq.

U.S. officials say the attacks are likely the work of Sunni extremists who want to undermine the Shiite-led government as U.S. troops draw down and as Iraq's Jan. 16 national election looms.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American commander in Iraq, this week announced a plan to quell violence and ethnic tension in northern Iraq.

Since the June 30 urban pullout, which Maliki billed as a "great victory" for Iraqis, his government has sharply limited the mobility and authority of U.S. troops in the capital.

Special correspondent Qais Mizher contributed to this report.

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