ratcheting up in iraq: violence escalates

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 8, 2009

Filed at 4:47 a.m. ET

BAGHDAD (AP) — An official at Iraq’s Interior Ministry says at least 90 people have been killed and more than 115 wounded in a series of coordinated blasts around Baghdad.

Three bomb-rigged cars exploded in quick succession on Tuesday, striking the Labor Ministry, a court complex and the new site of Iraq’s Finance Ministry — whose previous building was destroyed in an August blast.

Earlier, a suicide bomber struck a police patrol in southern Baghdad.

The Interior Ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

BAGHDAD (AP) — A series of coordinated attacks struck across Baghdad Tuesday — including three car-rigged bombs striking near government sites — killing at least 72 people and wounding 115 in the worst wave of violence in the capital in more than a month, authorities said.

The total of four attacks, which also included a suicide car bomb on a police patrol, showed the ability of insurgents to strike high-profile targets in the heart of Baghdad in another embarrassment to Iraqi forces in their expanding role as front-line security as U.S. forces plan their withdrawal.

The blasts came as Iraqi officials prepared to announced the date for next year’s parliamentary elections — a move the security forces worry could bring an escalation in attacks seeking to discredit the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The core of the attacks hit central Baghdad with three bomb-rigged cars exploding in the span of a few minutes.

The targets were the latest assaults directly at Iraq’s authorities: the Labor Ministry building, a court complex near the Iraqi-protected Green Zone and the new site of the Finance Ministry, whose previous building was destroyed in major attacks in August.

An official for Iraq’s Interior Ministry said at least 72 people were killed and at least 115 injured. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give information to media.

The blasts marked the most serious spate of violence in Baghdad since twin car bombs on Oct. 25 struck outside Baghdad administration offices, killing at least 155 people.

The breakdown of casualties among the sites was not immediately clear, but the most serious bloodshed had been reported outside the new Finance Ministry building.

About an hour before the Baghdad blasts, a suicide car bomber struck a police patrol in the mostly Sunni district of Dora in southern Baghdad, killing at least four people and injuring five others, said a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

In August, suicide bombers hit the Finance and Foreign ministries, killing more than 100 people.

Overall violence has dropped sharply around Iraq in the past year, but insurgents have stepped up attacks at government sites.

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