At least 127 dead in string of Baghdad bomb attacks
Tuesday, December 8, 2009; 5:39 PM
BAGHDAD -- Four large bombs exploded near education facilities, judicial complexes and other targets in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 127 people and triggering recriminations against the Iraqi government and its security forces. Nearly 500 people were wounded, according to Iraqi police officials.
The blasts, which occurred minutes apart shortly after 10 a.m., fueled fears that elections, scheduled for March 7, and the withdrawal of U.S. forces will usher in a new phase in the battle for control of Iraq. Although that fight is unfolding primarily in the political arena, many Iraqis fear that a rise in violence and political instability could again turn politicians into combatants.
Iraqi officials accused the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq of responsibility for Tuesday's carnage, the latest in a campaign of massive bombings apparently designed to undermine the Shiite-led government, which insurgents deride as a byproduct of the U.S. occupation.
The group has little support among Iraqis, but the anger and sense of impotence voiced here Tuesday suggested that the insurgents have succeeded in portraying the government as feeble and incompetent.
"Everyone knows that the interior minister doesn't speak to the prime minister because of political problems," Shiite lawmaker Nasar al-Rubaie said during a televised parliamentary session in which lawmakers chastised commanders and key ministers. Rubaie was referring to the rivalry between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, who head slates vying for seats in the coming elections.
"How can we provide security for Iraqis with security ministries that respond to political parties?" Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman demanded.
The Baghdad security command, which reports to Maliki, reported a lower death toll, saying that 77 died in the explosions. Two of four statements it issued about the bombings lambasted media coverage. The command described journalists with one Western agency as "liars" and said it would sue an Iraqi TV station for "defamation, abuse and incitement to violence."
Maliki blamed "remnants" of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and al-Qaeda in Iraq for the attacks in a statement Tuesday afternoon. The prime minister denounced the attackers for "gloating in the blood of our innocent" and attempting to "abort our democratic experiment."
Lawmakers scheduled a special session for Thursday to review the government's response to the latest attacks and its investigations into bombings in August and October that left key ministries in ruins and killed more than 250 people.
As U.S. troops sharply downscaled their presence in Iraqi cities this summer, Maliki hailed the first phase of their withdrawal as a "victory" for Iraq and many Iraqis took to the streets, dancing and proclaiming their new sovereignty. Days later, Maliki's government announced it would start dismantling the ubiquitous concrete walls that remind Iraqis daily of the dangers that have come to shape their lives.
The recent carnage has given those celebrations a retrospective air of hubris and led Iraqis to fear that their country may not yet be on the mend.
One of Tuesday's explosions occurred outside a bank in central Baghdad that was being used as a temporary headquarters for the Finance Ministry, which was destroyed in one of the August bombings.