Baghdad, Iraq – A wave of bombings struck foreign diplomatic missions in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 30 people and wounding 224 others, Iraqi authorities said.
Three explosions targeted the Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian and German embassies in quick succession before noon; some of the embassies were clustered in the same area. Iraqi security forces said that a fourth bomb was defused in downtown Baghdad. Iraqi authorities blocked all bridges over the Tigris River linking east and west Baghdad, while emergency works began pulling corpses and survivors from the rubble.
The blasts surely will color the intense political negotiations that are under way after the March 7 parliamentary election, raising questions about which candidates have the security credentials and the ability to cut across sectarian lines to lead a still-unstable Iraq after U.S. troops withdraw by the end of next year. The embassy bombings come barely two days after gunmen dressed in Iraqi army uniforms stormed a Sunni Muslim village south of Baghdad and killed 25 men and women in an execution-style attack that was reminiscent of Iraq’s worst days of sectarian violence.
Earlier Sunday, four other explosions — all of them involving the magnetic, or so-called “sticky,” bombs — hit civilian and government targets in different neighborhoods of Baghdad, Iraqi authorities said. No one was killed in those attacks; two civilian drivers were wounded.
Also, in the Ninewah province north of Baghdad, two people were killed and 36 were wounded, including six policemen, in still another car bombing.
“I believe this is the fight for power. The political parties don’t care about us. I’d be grateful for anyone who can help me leave this country,” said Mohanned Hassan, 32, whose house behind the Canadian embassy was damaged in the bombings, as he surveyed the destruction at his doorstep.
The highest number of casualties Sunday came from the blast outside the gate of the Iranian embassy in the crowded neighborhood of Salhiyah. A police officer at the scene who declined to give his name said a bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives blew himself up when he was stopped by an embassy guard from entering the compound.
Survivors, many of them shaken and in tears, sat on the ground as emergency crews attended to people with serious injuries. The street near the embassy was covered with blood and strewn with charred vehicle parts.
“I took out two dead people from their cars,” said Sajjad Ali, 18, whose body trembled. He was lucky to have escaped with minor injuries from the blast that occurred just a few yards from him. “The bodies were completely burned and the smell of the burned flesh filled my nose.”
As Ali spoke, Iraqi security forces dug for a few moments before reaching the body of an elderly woman who apparently had died when a concrete block crushed her.
The other explosions were car bombs, police said, that targeted the German, Syrian and Egyptian embassies, leaving behind casualties and serious structural damage. No group had claimed responsibility for the attacks and none of the diplomatic missions had released statements as of late Sunday. Security forces blocked journalists from reaching the area.
(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent.)