At least 36 people were killed and scoreswounded when three explosions rocked Baghdad in quick succession, apparently targeting a number of hotels. Monday's explosions come less than six weeks before the March 7 general elections.
AFP - At least 36 people were killed and 71 wounded in three massive car bombings that targeted hotels in Baghdad on Monday in an apparently co-ordinated attack less than six weeks from a general election.
Iraqi and US forces have warned of rising violence in the lead up to the March 7 vote, the second parliamentary ballot since the 2003 US-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein but ushered in a deadly and long-lasting insurgency.
The first bomb struck near the Palestine and Sheraton hotels in Abu Nawaz, close to where a giant statue of Saddam was symbolically toppled almost seven years ago, at around 3:30 pm (1230 GMT), an interior ministry official said.
The second and third blasts just minutes later targeted the Babylon Hotel in the central district of Karrada and the Hamra hotel in Jadriyah, in the south of the capital, he added.
Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad Major General Qassim Atta said all three car bombs were suicide attacks.
An interior ministry official told AFP that 36 people had been killed and 71 were wounded.
The first explosion which shook ground miles away from the site of the blast sent plumes of smoke rising hundreds of metres (yards) into the air.
Monday's attacks differed from recent high-profile bombings that have become increasingly common in Baghdad in that they targeted hotels rather than government buildings.
The most recent deadly bombings in August, October and December last year occurred at government buildings, including the ministries of finance, foreign affairs, and justice. Those attacks killed nearly 400 people.
US and Iraqi politicians have warned that the election could be a focus for violence.
The latest attacks also occurred less than two weeks after security forces sealed off Baghdad after being tipped-off that bomb-laden cars had been parked in the city.
Insurgents, weakened in the past year, have in the past six months changed tactics and mounted successful attacks on "hard" targets such as government buildings, rather than so-called soft targets in civilian areas.
There are widespread fears, in the wake of the bloody attacks to hit Baghdad in the second half of 2009, that political violence will rise in the weeks leading up to the March vote.
The election is seen as a crucial step towards consolidating Iraq's democracy and securing a complete US military exit by the end of 2011, as planned.
Date created : 2010-01-25