Baghdad bomb blasts leave at least 127 dead

 

AT LEAST 127 people were killed and 530 wounded yesterday in co-ordinated blasts that rocked the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

The first explosion, detonated by a suicide bomber in the southern district of Dora, killed three policemen on patrol and 12 students from a technical college. The other targets were the busy Shorja market near the health ministry, the heavily guarded labour and interior ministries, a civil court in the diplomatic district of Mansour, a training institute for judges, the fine arts institute, where 27 musicians were injured, and the Mustansariya University, founded in 1234.

The Baghdad symphony orchestra’s conductor, Karim Wasfi, said the bombers were waging a “war against civilisation”.

Prime minister Nuri al-Maliki said the attacks were a “cowardly” attempt “to cause chaos” and “hinder” the parliamentary election scheduled for March 6th, 2010. Parliament has summoned him and responsible ministers to appear at a special session set for tomorrow.

These bombings adhered to a pattern set by two previous multi- site strikes. The first on August 19th devastated the finance and foreign ministries, slaying 102, and the second on October 25th at the justice ministry and provincial administration offices killed 155.

The latest bombings took place a day and a half after Iraqi lawmakers belatedly adopted legislation governing the parliamentary poll.

Mr Maliki has repeatedly warned that violence could rise ahead of voting. Officials contend that al-Qaeda has failed to ignite sectarian mayhem – comparable to the extreme violence sparked by the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra in 2006 – through hitting “soft” targets like mosques. Consequently, militants have shifted to “hard” targets, notably ministries and public buildings.

However, many Iraqis ask why, after more than five years of US training, the country’s post-war police and security forces are unable to halt the bombings, particularly at high profile government institutions.

Bombings have increased since US troops withdrew from most Iraqi cities and towns at the end of June. Following yesterday’s incidents, the US command dispatched soldiers and forensic teams to assist Iraqi interior ministry personnel dealing with investigations into the blasts.

Some Iraqi commentators argue that the police and armed forces have been infiltrated by members of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia or by insurgents connected to the ousted Baath party. Other analysts blame elements belonging to the military wings of rival Shia factions seeking to portray Mr Maliki as incompetent and to oust him.

Shortly after the bombings, the oil ministry declared that next weekend’s auction of oil field development contracts would go ahead as planned.

Scores of oil firm executives are expected in Baghdad for these proceedings. Deals reached at the two-day gathering are meant to raise funds for reconstruction after decades of war and sanctions.

On Monday, an explosion which may have been caused by the accidental detonation of a hidden store of munitions, killed six children at a school in the Sadr City slum district, stronghold of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.