102 killed, nearly 350 injured in Iraq

Twin car bombs at a factory, followed by a suicide attack against emergency workers, and co-ordinated blasts targeting security forces killed 102 people yesterday in Iraq’s bloodiest day this year.

Nearly 350 people were wounded in more than 20 attacks nationwide, a surge in violence that came as Iraq moved closer to getting a new government two months after an election seen as crucial to US combat troops leaving the country by August 31.

The deadliest attack saw two explosives-packed vehicles detonated minutes apart in the car park of a textiles factory in the central city of Hilla, 95 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad, as workers boarded buses to go home.  About an hour later, a massive blast, which an interior ministry official said was a suicide bomber wearing an explosives-filled belt, engulfed the area as emergency service workers treated victims at the scene.

“When I heard the explosions, I rushed outside and saw the massive damage — there were bodies everywhere, people were crying and screaming,” said Haidar Ali, 35, who had by chance stayed in the factory to speak to a colleague.  “It’s the fault of the government and the company. They care only about their own personal safety, and they left the workers without any security. They were very easy targets.”

Dr Ihab al-Dhabhawi, a doctor at Hilla’s hospital, said the explosions, which struck the State Company for Textile Industries at around 1:30 pm (1030 GMT), killed 50 people.  A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said security forces had received intelligence of car bombs targeting the city and had searched different parts of it before hearing the explosions.

And in the southern port city of Basra, three car bombs at two markets killed 20 people, police said.  The first blast struck in a busy market in the centre of the city, 450 kilometres (280 miles) south of Baghdad, at around 6:00 pm (1500 GMT), while two other blasts hit another market in central Basra an hour later.  Earlier, the capital Baghdad was hit by a spate of shootings with automatic weapons against six police or army checkpoints in the east and west of the city, which left seven dead, the interior ministry official said.

Two other policemen died in three bombings in south and west Baghdad, he added.  “The attacks started at 6:30 am (0330 GMT) and ended around 8:00 am (0500 GMT),” the official said, noting that nearly all of the wounded were security personnel.  A double bomb attack near the mosque in Suwayrah, 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of the capital, meanwhile, killed 11 people and wounded 70, a police lieutenant told AFP.

Twelve other people were killed in separate attacks around the former Sunni insurgent bastion of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, the northern city of Mosul, in Iskandiriyah, south of Baghdad, and near Tarmiyah, north of the Iraqi capital.

Yesterday’s death toll was the highest since December 8, when 127 people were killed in five massive vehicle-borne bombs across the capital.

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