Baghdad Blasts Kill At Least 95

A wave of explosions near government buildings and commercial centers in Baghdad killed at least 95 people and wounded 500 others. It was the deadliest day in Baghdad since U.S. troops handed over security at the end of June.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Today has been the deadliest day in Baghdad since U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraq's cities at the end of June. According to the interior ministry at least 95 people are dead. More than 500 are wounded.

SIEGEL: The attacks targeted government buildings and commercial centers and, as NPR's Deborah Amos reports, they rattled windows across Baghdad and rattled confidence in the Iraqi government's ability to maintain security.

DEBORAH AMOS: Coordinated and powerful, the morning bombs intruded on the capital during the work day. Iraq's ministry of foreign affairs took the biggest hit. Crews worked through the day to clean up shattered glass, blackened cars, and blood. A truck bomb crammed with two tons of explosives ripped off the facade of the high-rise building and left a ten foot crater. Security specialists said it was the largest bomb they had seen in the capital. Shattered glass killed diplomats, journalists and security guards from the entrance hall up to the seventh floor offices, according to eyewitnesses. Diplomat Hourey Mohammed(ph) his shirt open, his head bandaged was still dazed as he recounted the explosion that killed several people in a meeting he was attending.

Mr. HOUREY MOHAMMED (Diplomat):(Through translator) Suddenly the roof collapsed over my head. Two of those who were with me, including a woman who was seven months pregnant, got killed, poor woman.

AMOS: He blamed Iraq's politicians for the carnage. It was a common complaint at the bomb site. Protection around the foreign ministry has been lightened recently as part of the prime minister's campaign to show the capital is safe under his command now that American soldiers have pulled back. The prime minister ordered a checkpoint removed and the road open to traffic in front of the ministry a month ago.

(Soundbite of traffic)

AMOS: The massive truck bomb was so powerful the blast damaged apartments across a wide street. Umm Bashar(ph) a 48-year-old government worker came home to find shattered glass and shredded curtains.

Ms. UMM BASHAR: (Through Translator) We haven't gotten our salary. How can we pay for this damage?

AMOS: Her neighbors surveying the damage complained that the prime minister's plan to remove the blast walls in the city was a step too far. With six attacks in one day, they said the price was too high.

(Soundbite of moving wreckage)

AMOS: Dozens of damaged cars had to be moved to get the wounded out. In the second biggest explosion of the day at the heavily guarded finance ministry, a car bomb killed dozens and collapsed a bridge nearby. Iraqi television showed a scene from inside parliament when the bombs went off.

The picture wobbles and then thick white smoke pours through the ceiling. While across the street at the Al-Rasheed hotel, glass shattered over a meeting of tribal sheikhs. In another part of Baghdad, a mortar hit a shopping district. The police and army, put on full alert, were seen arresting dozens of young men as they patrolled the streets. Baghdad hospitals were overwhelmed by the high case load. Yarmouk hospital had to close the doors to regular patients. Haider Mohammed(ph), a cleaner, helped carried the injured inside.

Mr. HAIDER MOHAMMED: (Through Translator) They started arriving at 10:30. There were so many people, we had to put them on the floor.

AMOS: Government officials blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for the escalating violence. This was the bloodiest day for Baghdad this year. The coordinated attacks hit heavily-guarded landmarks. But the spokesman for the Baghdad operations command, in charge of security for the capital, was unusually frank. On Iraqi state television he said this operation shows negligence and he added it is a security breach for which the Iraqi forces must take most of the blame.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, Baghdad.

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