Car Bombs Hit Crowds Outside Bank in Baghdad
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BAGHDAD -- A pair of car bombs detonated simultaneously outside Iraq's Bank of Trade on Sunday morning, killing 26 people and wounding 52 others in the second attack on a major government financial institution in eight days.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but the Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent group with ties to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, has said it was responsible for a raid at Iraq's Central Bank in Baghdad the previous Sunday that killed 15 people and wounded 50.
A separate bombing killed three police officers in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown north of Baghdad.
The bombings came during a period of political uncertainty -- negotiations to form a new government have stalled more than three months after parliamentary elections -- which insurgents are seeking to exploit to destabilize the country further, American and Iraqi officials said.
"They are targeting financial institutions to try to harm the economic situation because they want to keep international companies from investing here," said Dr. Jabir al-Jabiri, a newly elected member of Parliament.
The twin blasts near Nisour Square, which was crowded with people at the start of the workweek here, were powerful enough to toss several cars onto nearby rooftops, witnesses said, and turned the area into a scene reminiscent of the worst days of the war, with white sheets covering the dead, body parts littering the ground and people with shrapnel wounds wandering dazed, asking for water.
Nisour Square is home to several government buildings, including a police station and the agency that issues national identification cards, but is perhaps best known outside Iraq as the place where Blackwater Worldwide guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
The trade bank was established after the United States-led invasion in 2003 to help finance reconstruction efforts and international trade.
The bank's chairman, Hussein al-Uzri, said in a statement that the bombings had killed five bank guards and wounded six other employees.
The attack "was an act of cowardice by malevolent forces who wish to undermine the progress that Iraq is steadily making towards stability," he said. He pledged that the bank would reopen for business on Monday.
The car bombs might have been directed at a convoy driving into the bank's entrance at about 11 a.m., Iraqi Army officers at the scene said. It was not immediately clear who was in the convoy or whether they were wounded.
The bank's windows facing the street were blown out, but the extent of damage to the rest of the building, which is protected by a blast wall, was not clear on Sunday evening.
Abdul Rasul Kareem, a civil defense officer who responded to the attack, said he heard an explosion and immediately rushed to help.
"We were trying to put out the fire in a car and to rescue victims," he said. "I was shouting for ambulances to help people. My team was searching roofs for people."
A woman, who identified herself as Um Hussein, wept as she surveyed the wreckage. "My son, my son!" she said.
An Iraqi Army soldier came up to her and handed her a cellphone, saying her son had only been wounded and was in the hospital waiting to speak to her.
As she listened to the voice on the other end, her face lighted up. But after a few moments, she began to cry again.
"No," she said. "This is not my son." She collapsed onto the ground a few feet from a body.
In Tikrit, a roadside bomb exploded as a police patrol passed Sunday evening, killing three officers and wounding six civilians, the police said.
Also on Sunday, the Iraqi authorities said they had found the decomposing bodies of seven people inside a house in central Baghdad. All had been shot in the head and were believed to have been dead for at least a week.
The authorities said four were women who had been found naked and that the victims included a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl.
Neighbors said they thought the women might have been prostitutes.
First Published June 21, 2010 2:01 am