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Page last updated at 19:30 GMT, Sunday, 4 April 2010 20:30 UK

Iraqi capital rocked by bombs leaving 41 dead

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The explosions shattered a period of relative calm after March's elections

Three suicide car bombs have hit the centre of Iraq's capital, Baghdad, in quick succession, killing at least 41.

The attacks, which injured more than 200 others, appear to have been aimed at foreign embassies.

The bombings shatter a period of relative calm after last month's parliamentary elections. No-one has said they organised the attacks.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the insurgents want to send a message that Iraq remains very unstable and unsafe.

On Saturday, gunmen killed 25 people believed to be linked to Sunni militias opposing al-Qaeda in a village south of Baghdad.

Gunshots

The first two bombs went off within about a minute of one another, in Mansour - a fairly smart suburb on the western side of the city, housing many embassies.

The Egyptian, German and Syrian missions were all affected by the blasts.

But security around their buildings is tight, and the brunt of the explosions hit passers-by in the streets, our correspondent says.

ANALYSIS
Jim Muir
Jim Muir
BBC News, Baghdad


Each of the multiple bombings which have hit Baghdad over the past year has been "themed"- clearly with the aim of conveying the message not only that the insurgents can strike several targets simultaneously, but that they can focus on a particular type of target each time.

In August, October and December last year, they carried out co-ordinated attacks on government ministries. In January, it was the turn of the big hotels in central Baghdad.

Now, it seems to be foreign embassies that were singled out for attention by the suicide bombers.

The attacks come at a sensitive moment, with politicians embroiled in trying to form a government which all agree should reach out to regional countries, especially Arab states which have been slow to restore full diplomatic ties with Baghdad.

"I saw children screaming while their mothers held their hands or clutched them to their chest," one man told the Associated Press news agency.

"Cars were crashing into each other in streets, trying to find a way to flee."

The political movement headed by Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress, said that its headquarters close to the Syrian embassy were also affected by the attack, and that many of it guards and employees were among the casualties.

Another minute or so later, a third suicide bomber blew his car up near the Iranian embassy, closer to the city centre. Here again, many people in nearby streets and buildings were among the dead and injured.

The authorities in Baghdad say security forces shot and killed a man before he could detonate a fourth car bomb near the former Germany embassy, which is now a bank.

A number of Iraqi guards working for foreign missions were among those killed. Egypt said several of its staff were wounded by shrapnel.

Spain said its embassy and the adjacent German mission were also damaged.

Our correspondent says Sunday's attacks bore all the hallmarks of earlier bombings, for which the Islamic State in Iraq - the umbrella group for militant Sunni Islamist insurgents - took responsibility.

But the same organisation vowed to disrupt the general elections in March, which went ahead undeterred.

This was also the first wave of co-ordinated attacks in Baghdad for more than two months, and the magnitude of each explosion was considerably less than the massive bombs that struck government targets last year, our correspondent says.

Those attacks - last August, October and December - killed hundreds of people.



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