Twin car bombs kill 27 and injure 50 in Baghdad

 

SIMULTANEOUSLY detonated twin car bombs killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 50 yesterday outside a bank and an interior ministry office that issues identity cards in the busy commercial Nisour square area of Baghdad.

Most of the victims were either waiting in line to enter these facilities or passing by. Fatalities were expected to rise as victims were pulled from the rubble.

The powerful explosions sheared the glass facade from the Trade Bank of Iraq, an institution established to promote investment in the country.

Iraqis were returning to work after a weekend marked by violence. On Saturday one man was shot dead by police at a demonstration protesting the lack of electricity, clean water and services in the southern city of Basra, where most of Iraq’s oil is exported.

During the funeral of the victim, Haidar Salman, a 26-year-old father of three, protesters demanded the resignation of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and his caretaker administration.

Seven people were also killed during bombings and a rocket attack in the capital while the decomposing bodies of six women and a man were found in the garden of a deserted house in the formerly mixed neighbourhood of Zayouna. Women are often murdered by religious extremists who accuse them of breaching social and religious norms of behaviour.

Last week gunmen stormed Iraq’s central bank and battled with security forces at the heart of the capital, prompting speculation that al-Qaeda and other anti-US and anti-regime groupings are seeking to undermine security with politicians failing to form a government after the inconclusive result of the parliamentary poll in March.

Since then parliament has met in a brief inaugural session but did not name a potential prime minister. Mr al-Maliki, the incumbent, and his rival Ayad Allawi, whose Iraqiya bloc won the most seats in the assembly, have been locked in a power struggle.

According to officials 337 people were killed in May, the fourth time this year that the death toll topped that of the corresponding months in 2009.

The rising violence coincided with an appeal to the international community from UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. He called on governments to refrain from sending Iraqi refugees back to their still dangerous country, to resettle specific cases, and provide funding for his organisation’s programmes benefiting the world’s 15 million refugees. Last week Iraqis forcibly deported from Britain to Baghdad accused security agents of beating them.

Mr Guterres chose to mark the occasion in Damascus to pay tribute to Syria and its people for receiving and hosting “forever” Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 and Iraqis who fled their country following the US war of 2003. He said Syria is not “harassing or pushing out the Iraqis” although “some countries are sending Iraqis home” despite the opposition of UNHCR. The agency is investigating the allegations that British security men beat Iraqi asylum seekers before deporting them to Baghdad last week.

He called on the future Iraqi government to “support refugee communities outside the country and prepare for [the refugees] voluntary return “in dignity and security”.

Security “requires effective reconciliation” and doing the appropriate “homework”, notably arranging the restitution of refugee properties and ensuring that “those who go back home feel at home”. He announced that 100,000 Iraqi refugees – of an estimated 1.8 million living in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon – have been accepted for resettlement and 52,173 people have left for developed countries.

Some 45 per cent of those who have submitted requests for resettlement live in Syria. Iraqis constitute the second largest refugee grouping in the world. About 38,000 Iraqis agreed to voluntary repatriation during 2009.