Three Car Bombs in Baghdad Kill Dozens

A succession of three car bombs detonate in central Baghdad killing at least 43 people and wounding more than 50. The bombs exploded within half an hour of each other, in one case killing rescue workers as they arrived to help those wounded in an earlier bombing.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next we're going to bring you the latest news from Baghdad where three bombs have gone off in quick succession today. One bomb detonated inside a busy bus station, and the Iraqi Interior Ministry says at least 43 people have been killed and scores injured. We're going now to Baghdad to NPR's Philip Reeves.

And, Philip, can you describe this day for us?

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

Yeah, just before 8:00 this morning, a suicide car bomb went off just outside al-Nahda bus station. This is one of the biggest terminals in Baghdad, and at this time of day, it's one of the busiest. This is where Iraqis come to catch taxis and coaches out of town to places like Basra and Kut. And just after the first bomb, a second car bomb blew up inside the terminal, and that obviously caused chaos and panic. Now the bus station's near Kindi Hospital. And as people were rushing the wounded to Kindi, a bomb, believed to be a suicide car bomber again, blew up on the route to the hospital, and that appears to have caused still more casualties. Just to give you an idea of the size of this thing, you know, 67 people were reported wounded, another 40 dead, and 22 cars were wrecked.

INSKEEP: Now sometimes, Philip, these bombing are clearly targeting different sectarian groups. Sometimes these bombings are targeting Iraq's new government. Is it apparent who the target was this time?

REEVES: No, not in a sectarian scene, although it does seem that the first car bomb, the one that was just outside the station, was aimed at the police who are frequent targets of insurgent attacks. Hundreds of them have been killed, many hundreds, in recent months. Several police vehicles were wrecked, and police were among the victims as were medics presumably caught up by the bomb near the hospital.

INSKEEP: How often do you have a coordinated attack like this with multiple bombs that were clearly set off in sequence for a reason?

REEVES: Well, you know, the insurgents have proved capable of mounting these kind of multiple, coordinated attacks before. The other day we had coordinated attacks on police checkpoints. I can recall other quite large coordinated attacks here in Baghdad. And one day we had about a dozen car bombs in Iraq, and they seemed to be coordinated, too. But it has to be said, this is one of the larger ones and the bloodiest for a while and the most ruthless.

INSKEEP: And it happens at a time when Iraqi politicians are still trying to work out their constitution.

REEVES: Yeah, that's right. Officials actually had been saying that they expected a big attack around the time the constitution was due to be presented to the National Assembly. That was Monday, but the deadline, if you'll recall, was extended by a week. By the way, it's not sure that deadline will be met now. If you read the Iraqi papers this morning, everyone's blaming each other for the breakdown of the talks, and there's all sorts of different explanations knocking around about why they failed, and they appear to be big issues, too, you know, Islam and the role of Islam in the constitution, the status of the Kurds and so on. I think what we're seeing with these attacks, though, is part of a broader insurgent campaign to undermine the transitional government, which the insurgents view as illegitimate by creating, you know, havoc and trying to deepen public dissatisfaction, especially among Sunni Arabs, with the government which, of course, is dominated by Shia.

INSKEEP: Philip, we keep hearing that these bombings are an effort to undermine Iraq's new government. Are they undermining Iraq's new government?

REEVES: We're working in a confined situation here as journalists. One has to be honest about that, but we get the feeling talking to Iraqis, given that proviso, that there is a dissatisfaction with this transitional government in particular, a feeling that the government led by Ibrahim Jafari is not proving effective. There is real problems with electricity, power cuts, and there's been no improvement in that department that one can detect. There are still huge lines for gasoline, and there's still endless violence going on here, and so that is leading to a sense that you hear from Iraqis that the government isn't really doing an effective job. So to that extent, the insurgents are probably fulfilling their goal of adding to that feeling of dissatisfaction.

INSKEEP: We've been talking to NPR's Philip Reeves in Baghdad.

Philip, thanks as always.

REEVES: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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