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Dozens Dead as Baghdad Rocked by Massive Explosions
The centre of Baghdad was rocked by seven near-simultaneous explosions this morning, killing an estimated 100 people and wounding 250 more.
In the deadliest attack in Iraq this year, and the most audacious one in the capital for a long time, mortar fire and car bombs were directed towards the main centres of power. Among the targets were the ministries of finance, foreign affairs, health and housing, as well as the Parliament building and the Cabinet building.
Also hit was a checkpoint on the approach roads to the fortified Green Zone. The largest explosion was across the street from the Foreign Ministry and is said to have killed 59 people. The combined total of dead and wounded is said to be 350.
Today is the sixth anniversary of a truck bombing that hit the United Nations compound in Baghdad, killing 22 people including special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Nobody has so far claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but it is likely to have been carried out by Sunni extremists trying to undermine the Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in order to re-ignite the sectarian warfare of two years ago.
Among the buildings hit in the attack was the Rasheed Hotel on the edge of the Green Zone, a popular choice with foreign visitors.
John Tipple, a UK solicitor, said: "The windows were blown out and the doors were taken out, even the door frames went. If I had been in my room at the time I would have been seriously injured or worse. Everything is locked down now. Nobody can move anywhere, nobody is getting in or out. Even our security team cannot move."
One of the bombs left a crater three metres deep and 10 metres in diameter, while the walls of the ministry compound in the Salhiyeh district were destroyed and its facade badly damaged.
Violence had been on the rise in the last few weeks with several attacks in the outskirts of Baghdad and in the north of the country. But today's coordinated bombings took place in some of the best protected areas of the city. This is a major challenge to the government ahead of national elections in less than six months.