BAGHDAD (AFP) – A bomb attached to a bicycle ripped through a market in central Baghdad on Thursday, killing two people and adding to the carnage in the Iraqi capital a day after twin truck bombs left 95 people dead.
Security and medical officials said at least 10 people were wounded in the blast in the market situated in the largely commercial Al-Rasheed street.
Iraqi forces were on high alert Thursday after twin truck bombs killed 95 people and wounded almost 600 in Baghdad’s bloodiest day in 18 months.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki late Wednesday vowed to overhaul the country’s security while Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, whose ministry compound was among the buildings targeted, said there had been “serious security breaches”.
The explosions came just minutes apart outside government ministries while a car bombing and spate of mortar attacks added to the carnage in the capital, which has been under Iraqi security control since US troops withdrew from towns and cities in the conflict-torn country at the end of June.
Maliki met with his security and intelligence officials Wednesday during which a number of “important decisions and fast measures” were agreed upon to sustain security and stability in Baghdad, his office said in a statement.
Baghdad military command announced the arrest of 10 officers from the army and police who were responsible for security in the two districts hit by the attacks. No details were given.
The international community, led by the UN security council, condemned the blasts, which came on the sixth anniversary of a bombing on the UN compound in Baghdad that killed special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others.
The White House described the attacks as “senseless violence” but the Pentagon noted that they would not affect the US military’s plans to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the twin bombings as “cowardly and pointless attacks,” vowing to help fight the scourge of terrorism.
An Iraqi interior ministry official said 563 people were wounded in the truck bombs, one of which targeted the foreign ministry just outside the heavily fortified Green Zone and the other the nearby finance ministry, across the Tigris river.
“This was a calculated, deliberate attack on the restoration of normal life,” Zebari told AFP. “My assessment is it’s an attack on the normalisation of life in Baghdad.”
He acknowledged that there had been “some serious, serious security breaches,” and said that while he couldn’t say who was behind the attack, its timing was “archetypal of Al-Qaeda.”
In an earlier statement, Maliki said the bombings were “a desperate attempt to derail the political process and affect the parliamentary elections,” planned to take place in January 2010.
Analysts said that the attacks shattered attempts by Maliki to portray himself as a guardian of security ahead of the January elections.
“Maliki is clearly the man who wanted to be the symbol of increasing security and security capabilities, and that is clearly not the case,” International Crisis Group analyst Loulouwa al-Rachid said.
“If this trend (of violence) continues, yes, definitely it’s going to weaken Maliki. Practically, it will endanger the whole process. How can you run elections if security is an issue?”
Iraqis pointed the finger at their security forces, which in turn blamed members of executed former dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“The government promised us security would return, but where is the security?” asked Hamid, 46, who lives a few hundred metres (yards) from the foreign ministry compound.
Major General Qassim Atta, the spokesman for the Iraqi Army’s Baghdad operations, blamed an alliance of Baathists loyal to Saddam and religious extremists for the attacks.
He added that security forces had arrested two senior Al-Qaeda leaders in western Baghdad, and that a truck carrying one tonne of explosives had been intercepted near a hospital in the centre of the capital.
A car bomb meanwhile hit a market in western Baghdad, while two mortar bombs landed in the Green Zone — an area of foreign embassies and government offices — and one exploded outside, a security official said.
It was the bloodiest day in Iraq since February 1, 2008, when bombs at Baghdad pet markets killed 98 people.
Recent attacks in the capital have appeared to target various ethnic groups in what is seen as a bid to reignite the sectarian violence which engulfed Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
Despite a reduction in violence across Iraq in the past year, attacks on security forces and civilians remain common in Baghdad, the restive northern city of Mosul and in the ethnically divided oil city of Kirkuk.