18 die in blasts, assault on Iraq ministry
By Prashant Rao, AFPBAGHDAD -- A coordinated string of bombings and brazen assault on a ministry near Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone killed 18 people on Thursday, in the Iraqi capital's deadliest violence this month.
March 15, 2013, 12:11 am TWN
The violence comes just days before the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and with barely a month to go before the country holds its first elections in three years.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Sunni militants including those linked to al-Qaida often target government officials and offices in a bid to destabilize Iraq.
At least three bombs went off in Allawi neighborhood, near the foreign and culture ministries and offices of the communications ministry, at about 1:30 p.m. (1030 GMT), officials and witnesses said.
At around the same time, militants staged an apparently unsuccessful assault on the nearby justice ministry.
Overall, 18 people were killed and at least 30 others wounded in the attacks, an interior ministry official and a medical source said.
All the buildings lie near the Green Zone complex in central Baghdad, home to parliament, the prime minister's office and the U.S. and British embassies.
“Some terrorists tried to infiltrate the justice ministry,” said Sabah Noori, spokesman for Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service.
“The bombs ... were coordinated with them (militants) trying to get into the ministry.”
Gunfire was heard after the blasts, and smoke could be seen rising above the neighborhood, witnesses said.
Also on Thursday, a bombing targeted a candidate in Iraq's upcoming provincial elections, after another was kidnapped along with his father and other relatives north of Baghdad the night before.
A magnetic “sticky bomb” exploded on a car carrying Khaled Hussein al-Daraji, a candidate in Salaheddin province, killing his driver and wounding three nearby workers, though Daraji escaped unharmed.
And a tribal sheikh, Qais Abdul Karim al-Janabi, was kidnapped along with his son, Salaheddin provincial elections candidate Abdul Karim, and five other relatives in Siniyah, north of Baghdad.