Bombers in Iraq target embassies, kill 41

BAGHDAD — At least 41 people were killed and 237 wounded Sunday in three suicide car bombings targeting the Iranian and German embassies and the Egyptian Consulate in a span of 30 minutes.

The attacks, which Iraqi government officials blamed on the Sunni Arab extremist group al-Qaida in Iraq, came less than two days after unknown gunmen in uniforms massacred 25 people in a Sunni district south of Baghdad.

The ongoing carnage raises fears the security situation could unravel before Iraq's next government is formed, as armed groups and political parties look to exploit the uncertain period after last month's national elections. The conditions are reminiscent of early 2006 when al-Qaida in Iraq took advantage of the transition between elected governments to blow up a Shiite holy shrine and ignite a civil war between the country's Shiite majority and its Sunni minority population, which dominated the government of Saddam Hussein before he was toppled in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

It also comes as American forces prepare to draw down to 50,000 noncombat troops by the end of August and are less able to curb tensions between the sides because of their diminishing numbers.

Many of those killed Sunday were motorists and pedestrians near the consular buildings in Baghdad's central governmental hub and an embassy row in west Baghdad.

No diplomats were reported wounded or killed.

None of the compounds were breached, but the force of the blast by the Egyptian Consulate tore down a wall. The deadliest attack was at the Iranian Embassy in central Baghdad, surrounded by key government institutions, where 23 were killed. Eighteen died in the twin bombings at the German and Egyptian buildings, located about five minutes apart on Emirat Street in Baghdad's Mansour district.

The attack on the Egyptian Consulate left three Egyptian officials lightly wounded. An Iraqi policeman charged with security for the embassies of Germany, Syria, Morocco and Tunisia was killed, along with two other policemen, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

At the German Embassy, a guard was killed, and nearby three doctors at a clinic were wounded.

Abu Nima, a guard at the clinic, was a friend of the embassy guard.

"I saw his young son crying and screaming. He wished that he was dead like his father," Abu Nima said, blaming the nation's political feuding for the violence.

"It's part of the struggle to form the next government. They are attempting to impose pressure and instability as they race and fight for posts," the night watchmen said. "But unfortunately they oppress the poor people like us. We are the victims."

Political infighting weighs heavy on the minds of most in Baghdad after the March 7 election, in which former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqiya alliance won a few more parliament seats than the Shiite-led slate of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did.

Neither bloc has the necessary 163-seat majority in the 325-member parliament and al-Maliki has refused to accept the election results, charging fraud. Since the vote, raids have been carried out against several winning candidates from Iraqiya's list. The situation has fed simmering religious tensions as al-Maliki's backers have depicted him as the choice for the Shiite majority, while the onetime Sunni elite have pinned their hopes on Allawi.