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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 09:57 GMT
Huge blasts near Baghdad ministry
Man injured by Baghdad blast
Suicide car bombings are a favoured tactic of the insurgents
Two powerful car bombs have killed at least six people outside a Baghdad interior ministry building at the centre of a detainee abuse scandal.

The suicide attacks near the building in the central Jadiriya district injured at least 40 people and brought down a block of flats.

A hotel used by foreigners may also have been targeted in the attack.

US troops found 173 detainees, some of whom had reportedly been tortured, in a bunker in the building on Sunday.

Most of them are believed to be Sunni Arabs - the main group involved in the insurgency.

Sunni politician Saleh Mutlaq has accused the government of holding more than 1,100 prisoners at the ministry and suggested a number of them had been tortured to death.

He also called for the alleged abuses at the detention centre to be referred to international courts.

Maj Falah al-Mohammedawi, an interior ministry official, said that the al-Qaeda in Iraq militant group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi appeared to be responsible.

"We believe that the Zarqawi group is behind the blasts as revenge for the fact that some al-Qaeda members were inside the shelter," he said.

Search for survivors

Two suicide bombers drove lorries at blast walls near the Hamra Hotel, US Col Ed Cardon said.

The first bomber blew up part of the wall in an apparent bid to clear a passage for the second, he said, but that also exploded before reaching the hotel or ministry, and brought down a block of flats.

A large crater could be seen in the road.

US engineers were sent to the scene to help firefighters and local people search for people in the rubble of the fallen building.

The area is close to the Green Zone complex where Iraqi and US officials are based.

Windows were blown out in the hotel, which is heavily frequented by foreign journalists, but there were no reports of serious casualties there.

The interior ministry building itself also seems to have escaped the brunt of the blasts.

War of words

The BBC's Jim Muir reports that the prisoner find has been shaking the transitional Iraqi government in its closing weeks before the parliamentary election in December.

Mushroom cloud over Baghdad on Friday
Suicide car bombings are a favoured tactic of the insurgents

A war of words has erupted between Interior Minister Bayan Jabr - who belongs to one of the big Shia factions - and his many political enemies, especially among the Sunni groups.

Mr Jabr says that only a few detainees at the Jadiriya centre appear to have been maltreated and he insisted no abuse would be tolerated.

The prisoners discovered by US forces had reportedly been tortured and were malnourished.

"I reject torture and I will punish those who perform torture," the interior minister said.

He described some of the men found at Jadiriya as foreign terror suspects, kept there at his request because they were the "most criminal terrorists".

Sunni groups have demanded an international inquiry into allegations that Shia militias linked to the interior ministry were responsible for the abuse.




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