Wire: Blasts Rock Baghdad, Kill 91
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that two powerful car bombs exploded in downtown Baghdad Sunday, killing at least 91 people in an apparent attempt to target the city's government offices, Iraqi medical officials and authorities said.
The Associated Press said that the explosions come as Iraq is preparing for elections scheduled this January, and many Iraqi officials have warned that violence by insurgents intent on making the country appear unstable could rise.
The street where the blasts occurred was just reopened to vehicle traffic a few months ago. The area is just a few hundred yards from the heavily protected Green Zone that houses the U.S. Embassy and the prime minister's offices.
AP noted that Sunday's explosions, which also injured at least 250 people, went off less than a minute apart near two prominent government institutions -- the Ministry of Justice and the headquarters of the Baghdad provincial administration -- in a neighborhood that houses a number of government institutions.
Video images captured on a cell phone showed the second blast going off in a massive ball of flames, followed by a burst of machine gun fire.(Report from newswire sources.)
Two American security contractors were injured in the blasts, but no American embassy personnel were killed, said Philip Frayne, an embassy spokesman in Baghdad. Frayne could not provide details about who the contractors worked for, or the nature of their injuries.
U.S. security contractors could be seen at the site of the explosions helping the wounded before they were transported for treatment to six different hospitals around the capital.
Iraqi hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, gave the death toll.
The explosions were caused by car bombs aimed at government institutions, said Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Mousawi, spokesman for the city's operations command center. He added that it was not known whether they were suicide attacks.
The explosive-laden vehicles were parked in car parks next to the two government building, police said.