Bombings shake Iraq, threaten stability

BAGHDAD — Suicide bombers in cars packed with explosives killed at least 132 people and wounded 600 more outside Iraqi government buildings Sunday morning in nearly simultaneous blasts that were powerful even by Baghdad's grim standards.

The bombings made Sunday the deadliest day in Iraq since April 2007, according to casualty figures released by Iraqi authorities, and they drew particular outrage because they struck at cabinet ministries and city government offices that are supposed to be especially secure.

One of the explosions also ruptured a water line, causing a flood that turned red as it mixed with blood. Corpses bobbed underwater and dangled from rooftops. An Iraqi soldier fainted at the scene upon hearing eight of his comrades had died.

"This is unbearable; this is criminal," said Mahmoud al-Fahmawi, an ambulance driver who collected jaws, a heart and other body parts from the scene. "God didn't order jihad as this. Jihad is not killing or bombing innocents."

Iraqi authorities said Sunday's bombings appear to have been carried out by two suicide attackers in cars or trucks that exploded almost simultaneously at around 10:30 a.m. Sunday, the first day of the workweek in Iraq. The timing was devastating, both for the scores of ordinary Iraqis who were killed en masse as they arrived at their jobs and for the Iraqi government, which has been trying to address security and political problems in time for January elections.

American and Iraqi officials were hoping for a calm election season that would pave the way for a swift U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, but a political stalemate over election laws and the insurgents' continued ability to exploit the Iraqi government's vulnerabilities are potential spoilers. Now the January polls are in jeopardy, along with the Obama administration's goal of leaving behind a much more stable Iraq than the weak, violence-ridden nation of recent years.

"The United States will stand with Iraq's people and government as a close friend and partner as Iraqis prepare for elections early next year, continue to take responsibility for their future, and build greater peace and opportunity," President Obama said in a statement that condemned the bombings.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's administration was still reeling from twin truck bombings in August that killed about 100 people outside state offices. Together with Sunday's similar attack, insurgents have now rendered four key government buildings — the ministries of justice, finance, foreign affairs and municipalities — uninhabitable.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, released a statement blaming elements of Saddam Hussein's predominantly Sunni Baath Party and militants from al-Qaida in Iraq for the attack. As of late Sunday, no group had claimed responsibility.