Car bombs kill at least 30 in Baghdad

By Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 5, 2010

BAGHDAD -- Suicide attackers detonated three car bombs near diplomatic missions in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 30 people and wounding scores, security officials said.

The attacks, the deadliest in the capital since the March 7 parliamentary elections, come as Iraq's political factions are locked in a dispute over the outcome of the vote. Analysts say the violence could trigger a more intense round of fighting among the rivals that threatens to spill into the streets.

The strikes against the Iranian, German and Egyptian diplomatic missions appeared to be a continuation of attacks that began in August against government and high-profile buildings that killed hundreds. But accusations started soon after Sunday's bombings, with former prime minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc calling on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to "restore security" and blaming security forces for failing to prevent the attacks.

"This is a serious crime in which the Iraqi people are being consumed in the process of what we can call the conflict over who should have the upper hand in Iraq," political analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie said.

Maliki is struggling to hold on to power as his many rivals seek to dethrone him. His predominantly Shiite bloc came in a close second to Allawi's secular slate but is trying to build a coalition large enough to form Iraq's next government.

"The real danger is there will be more of these attacks and the political leaders will not respond the right way and they will start fighting," said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert at the International Crisis Group. "They want to exploit the current security vacuum and trigger violence between political parties. That will be a prescription for civil war."

Iraq's security forces are now tasked with securing the nation as the U.S. military draws down here. But the Iraqi forces are divided along political lines, and analysts and U.S. military officials are concerned that they will fracture further.

A U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly, said the political fighting and recent violence "could very well trigger an inter-military struggle."

Sunday's attacks come after the brutal executions of at least 24 people in a rural village just south of Baghdad on Friday. They began late in the morning when explosives packed in a car detonated just outside the gate to the Iranian Embassy, killing at least 20 people, including children, and wounding at least 125, according to an Interior Ministry official.

Minutes later, a car bomb detonated outside the German Embassy in the upscale neighborhood of Mansour. It was unclear whether the nearby Syrian Embassy was the intended target.

A few streets away, another suicide bomber drove into security guards and police at the Egyptian Consulate, killing at least five and wounding at least 45, according to an Interior Ministry official. But witnesses and police at the scene said 15 people were killed. The explosion left a 21-foot wide crater in the midst of elegant homes and ripped through the walls protecting the diplomatic mission.

Security officials said they prevented two other attacks, killing one potential bomber and capturing another, said Qassim Atta, the spokesman for Baghdad security, adding that he believed that the insurgent group Al-Qaeda in Iraq was responsible for the violence. He said the three bombers were wearing explosive vests inside their vehicles when they detonated.

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