Coordinated Blasts Kill More Than 125 In Baghdad The bombings came as officials agreed to set March 7 as the date for national elections. U.S. and Iraqi officials have expressed concerns that an increase in violence would mar the country's elections and delay a planned U.S. troop withdrawal set for 2010.
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Coordinated Blasts Kill More Than 125 In Baghdad

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Coordinated Blasts Kill More Than 125 In Baghdad

Coordinated Blasts Kill More Than 125 In Baghdad

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Now to the latest violence in central Baghdad. Car bombs killed at least 125 people. The coordinated attacks went off outside government sites during the morning rush hour. In a moment, we'll talk with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill. But first, NPR's Corey Flintoff has the story from Baghdad.

COREY FLINTOFF: The bombs could be heard and felt throughout the city. This one was recorded during a conversation with an Iraqi official in the Ministry of Interior.

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign Language Spoken)

(Soundbite of bomb)

(Soundbite of siren)

FLINTOFF: Police and Army trucks screamed along the highway headed toward a plume of black smoke rising from the district called Cairo, where a suicide attacker had blown up his car near the Ministry of Labor.

At the bomb site, police and soldiers searched a blackened zone of broken glass, engine oil and debris. Burned and mangled wrecks of cars ringed a crater blasted six feet into the concrete.

(Soundbite of loudspeakers)

FLINTOFF: Police loudspeakers warned civilians away as rescue workers carried sagging black body bags that looked far too small to hold a complete body. A dazed-looking young man stood off to the side, his face and hand bandaged, his neck and collar smeared with blood.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He says he was driving in the nearby intersection when the blast hit. He felt a tremendous rush of wind that lifted his car and smashed out the windows, but remembers very little else. Similar scenes played out at four other sites across the city, including a court building and the temporary quarters of the Finance Ministry, which was forced to move after its building was wrecked by the August bomb attacks.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Iraqi reporters that the attacks bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida and the outlawed Baath party of former dictator Saddam Hussein. He said the goal was to create chaos in Iraq before the national elections, now scheduled for early March. In parliament, lawmakers demanded to know why the government hasn't improved security after the previous bombings.

Mr. HASSAN AL-SHIMMERY (Member of Parliament, Fadhila Party, Iraq): (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Hassan al-Shimmery, a member of parliament from the Fadhila Party, says the government deserves a big share of the blame for the attacks.

Mr. AL-SHIMMERY: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He charged that corrupt officials in the security ministries � defense and interior � put personal profit before the safety of the public. Shimmery went on to charge that officials went against the advice of American experts and spent millions of dollars on explosive detection devices that don't work.

Something didn't work properly at the five sites in Baghdad today, where killers managed to drive cars loaded with explosives into crowded areas dotted with police and army checkpoints. Amid the wreckage near the labor ministry, police stand aside for a thin, young man in blue coveralls, who's pushing a wheelbarrow. He's named after the prophet, Mohammed, and he looks about 17. He's too angry and sad to say much.

MOHAMMED: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He was passing by, he says, and came to see what happened. It's very bad. Is all this because of the elections? We don't want such a stinking government. His wheelbarrow is piled with ragged, dirt-crusted chunks of human flesh. He walks on, pushing it toward the Red Crescent ambulance where the body bags are stacked.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Baghdad.

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