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Jan 25th, 2010

At Least 37 Killed in Baghdad Suicide Bombings

Hotels catering to journalists, security contractors hit; at least 104 hurt


Baghdad bombings target hotels housing Westerners (NBC Nightly News, Jan. 25, 2010) — NBC’s Richard Engel discusses Monday’s bombings in downtown Baghdad, targeted at places frequented by Americans and other Westerners. (01:30)

The Associated Press and Reuters via NBC News
Jan. 25, 2010

BAGHDAD — Three car bombs exploded Monday near three Baghdad hotels popular with Western journalists, security contractors and businessmen. At least 37 people were killed and more than 104 injured, security officials said. …

There was no claim of responsibility for the latest major attacks in Baghdad — about six weeks after a series of blasts killed 127 and brought outcry against Iraq’s government for repeated security lapses as U.S. troops withdraw.

The first explosion struck at about 3:40 p.m. in the parking lot of what once was the Sheraton Hotel, toppling high concrete blast walls protecting the site and damaging a number of buildings along the Abu Nawas esplanade across the Tigris River from the Green Zone, two Iraqi police officials said.

Two other blasts followed minutes later, striking near the Babylon Hotel and the al-Hamra Hotel.

Photo chronicle
Image: Residents gather around a hole made by a bomb attack in central Baghdad
Hotels hit
View images from the scenes of the three bombings Monday, Jan. 25, 2010 in Baghdad.

The Washington Post, which has a bureau at the al-Hamra property, said three of its Iraqi employees were wounded. “The windows of the house were shattered in the blast, and much of the bureau is in tatters,” it reported. “Three Post employees were wounded by flying glass. Two of them sustained head injuries, and a third has broken ribs and a broken arm. All three are conscious, and the injuries do not appear life-threatening.”

The officials said the death toll was expected to rise. According to initial tallies, 16 of the victims were near the al-Hamra, 14 near the Sheraton, and seven died near the Babylon, including two policemen. …

Blastwalls fell like dominoes

Outside the former Sheraton, a high-rise tower with views of the Tigris River and the fortified Green Zone on the other side, the blast left a 10-foot-deep crater in the parking lot.

Cars were torn apart by the spray of metal and glass, which littered the lawns and courtyards of the popular fish restaurants along the river. …

The Babylon Hotel, which was hit by the second bomb, is used by Iraqi travelers and sometimes for government meetings.

The al-Hamra appeared to have been extensively damaged, according to NBC staff in Baghdad. Before the bomb went off, two men in a car opened fire on guards at the hotel checkpoint, a police official said. …

The blasts come about a month a half after a series of five blasts struck Baghdad, killing 127 people and injuring more than 500. …

Multiple blasts in August and October also targeted government buildings, killing more than 255 people. …


1/26/10 Update

Iraq Militants Using New Tactics to Foil Security

At least 22 killed as bomber drives pickup through police checkpoint

Image: Site of a car bomb attack in central Baghdad
U.S. army soldiers inspect the site of a car bomb attack in central Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010. (Photo credit: Hadi Mizban / AP)

Jan. 26, 2010

BAGHDAD — Militant groups are finding new ways to foil Iraqi security — hiding explosives in the chassis of vehicles or tucking them into secret compartments, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday as Baghdad was again hit by a suicide car bomb that sheared off the front of the main crime lab. At least 22 people were killed.

The attack came a day after car bombings struck three Baghdad hotels favored by Western journalists and security contractors. The back-to-back blasts underscored the evolving tactics of suspected Sunni militants to target high-profile sites with periodic — but powerful — assaults that show high degrees of planning and coordination.

The aim appears twofold: to maximize the blows to the Shiite-led government and exploit security gaps with Iraqi forces now almost entirely in control of checkpoints and patrols as the U.S. military draws down.

Any signs of backsliding on security would hurt the American-backed administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is using the drop in overall violence across Iraq as one of the pillars of his campaign in March 7 national elections. But al-Maliki is also under pressure to reach out to Sunnis — who were once favored by Saddam Hussein — to fend off Shiite rivals in upcoming voting.

Insurgents such as al-Qaida in Iraq “have become more creative at how to conduct attacks,” the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, told reporters.

The methods include wrapping explosives into the gears and slats of vehicle chassis or into carefully concealed chambers, he said.

He said Iraqi authorities have requested scanners capable of looking inside sealed portions of vehicles. Iraqi forces have been reluctant to expand the use of bomb-sniffing dogs because of the widely held Muslim tradition that avoids contact with dogs. …

In Tuesday’s attack, the bomber tried to drive a bomb-rigged pickup truck through a checkpoint and around blast walls protecting the forensic evidence office run by the Interior Ministry, said police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

The force of the blast toppled some of the 10-foot concert blast walls weighing seven tons and sliced away portions of the building’s facade. At least 22 people were killed — including 18 police officers and some civilian visitors — and nearly 90 were wounded, said police and hospital officials.

The office mainly dealt with data collected during criminal investigations, including fingerprints and other evidence. It is next to the Interior Ministry’s major crimes office, which deals with terrorism cases.

A day before, three suicide car bombings struck hotels in central Baghdad in quick succession. In at least one attack, gunmen flanked the vehicle and drove away guards. At least 41 people were killed and some offices of Western media were badly damaged. …

Odierno said U.S. military intelligence indicates between five and 10 main insurgent leaders planning the attacks in Baghdad. He said some of the leaders are believed to be university trained, with degrees in business administration, engineering and law. …


Deadly suicide bombing in Iraq (MSNBC, Jan. 26, 2010) – A suicide bomber detonated outside a police lab in central Baghdad, killing at least 20 people and injuring dozens more. MSNBC’s Dara Brown reports. (00:39)


Related reports on this site

Deadly Violence Erupts in Iraq (Dec. 8, 2009)

Massive Bomb Attack on Iraq Govt (Oct. 25, 2009)

Bomb Blasts Across Baghdad (Aug. 19, 2009)

Mass Casualty Baghdad Bombings (May 21, 2009)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — January 25, 2009

A supporter holds a poster of Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a political rally in Basra, 260 miles southeast of Baghdad, Jan. 23, 2009. (Photo credit: Reuters / Stringer)

Poll Foreshadows Iraq’s Future

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported on the upcoming Jan. 31, 2009 provincial elections in Iraq — an important test of Iraq’s stability as the U.S. planned to begin withdrawing its troops.

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