Blasts near government bank kill at least 26 in Baghdad

By Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan
Monday, June 21, 2010

BAGHDAD -- Two car bombs exploded near a government-owned bank in central Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 53, police said.

The bombs detonated simultaneously near the Trade Bank of Iraq and left a gaping crater in the street. A statement from Iraq's security forces said the vehicles were loaded with 176 pounds of ammonium nitrate.

A string of bombings and assassinations has killed at least 100 people in the past week. The Sunday blasts were the second attack on a government bank in a week. On June 13, a group of armed men, some said to be wearing Iraqi army uniforms, carried out coordinated bombings around Iraq's Central Bank and stormed the facility. At least 25 people died in the assault. Some of the attackers blew themselves up.

Residents are growing impatient and frustrated at the apparent lack of government leadership. It has been three months since national elections were held, and although parliament convened last Monday, it could be weeks, if not months, before a new government takes office. There are fears that the continued political vacuum will lead to more violence.

Meanwhile, people in the capital are angry about the lack of electricity and water as summer arrives; temperatures have begun to top 120 degrees.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah on Sunday, people protested the lack of services and the government's response. The protest occurred one day after a man was killed and three people were injured when police opened fire on a mob demanding services in the oil-rich city of Basra.

In Baghdad, the streets were largely deserted after the 11 a.m. bombings around the Trade Bank of Iraq, which was established in 2003 to oversee international investment and reconstruction. More than a dozen bomb-damaged vehicles and rubble from the bank and nearby houses littered the streets.

A statement from the bank's chairman, Hussein al-Uzri, said five bank guards were killed and six wounded.

"The Trade Bank of Iraq, and Iraq itself, are undeterred," Uzri said in the statement. "The work of building Iraq's economic strength -- which the Trade Bank of Iraq is doing so much, and very successfully, to support, and in which we are making significant progress year by year -- goes on uninterrupted, as does the work of the Bank, which will be open for business tomorrow."

At the site of the blasts, which was cordoned off by Iraqi security forces, cranes and front-loaders cleared the debris.

"This is a massacre," said firefighter Mohanned al-Aanee, 35, as he sifted through the debris. "Everybody is vaporized. Security is a lie, and only God is left to protect us."

Alwan is a special correspondent.

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