Baghdad: Two car bombs tore through crowded parts of the Iraqi capital on Sunday, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 60 amid simmering tension six months after an inconclusive election.
One blast targeting a national security office killed at least six people and wounded 15, bringing down the facades of nearby houses, officials said. Some security sources put the death toll at nine.
A second car bomb near an office of mobile phone operator Asiacell, part-owned by Qatar Telecommunications Co, killed another six and wounded 51, the Baghdad security command said.
The blasts came three weeks after the US military formally ended combat operations in Iraq, 7-1/2 years after the invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
Overall violence has declined sharply over the past three years but a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency, opposed to the Shi’ite Muslim-led authorities who came to power after Saddam’s fall, continues to stage regular, devastating attacks.
The last major assault in the Iraqi capital occurred on 5 September when suicide bombers attacked an army base in central Baghdad and battled Iraqi troops and US soldiers for several hours. At least 12 people were killed.
Officials say insurgents linked to al Qaeda are seeking to stoke fears of deepening violence after the US military cut its numbers to 50,000 at the end of August and switched its focus to advising Iraqi forces, rather than leading the fight.
US troops still get involved in combat, despite the change in their primary focus.
Insurgents are also trying to exploit political tension six months after a 7 March election that produced no outright winner and which has yet to yield a new government. Shi’ite-led, Sunni-backed and Kurdish factions appear to have made little progress in negotiations to form a coalition government.
An official in the National Security Ministry said one of its offices was hit in the blast at Aden square in northwest Baghdad on Sunday.
“It was a car bomb targeting our building. This explosion damaged the building and we lost one of our staff,” the official said, asking not to be identified.
The building used by the ministry was destroyed, a Reuters photographer said at the scene. At least four nearby houses were severely damaged and ambulance drivers said there was at least one body in the rubble.
The second car bomb in the western district of Mansour was outside an Asiacell office and across the street from the popular Zarzour kebab restaurant, officials said.
The blast demolished around 37 vehicles, an official at the Baghdad security command said.