Baghdad: At least 24 people have been killed and 57 others injured after multiple explosions ripped through central Baghdad on Thursday, followed by a coordinated assault by gunmen who raided a government building and battled security forces in the streets.
According to witnesses, the attackers launched an assault on the Justice Ministry offices in the heart of downtown Baghdad using explosive laden vehicle and suicide bombers.
“Everybody panicked (after the first blast) and seconds later we heard a second explosion. I looked through the window and I saw some gunmen wearing police uniforms entering the building. We knew that these policemen were fake.”
A gun battle broke out between the intruders and security forces, as other explosions went off near the bus station and the headquarters for a VIP protection force that provides bodyguards for lawmakers, government ministers and other senior officials.
The fighting lasted about an hour, ending with security forces storming the building, killing the gunmen and evacuating hundreds of people who had hunkered down in their offices.
The large and complex assault on Justice Ministry offices in the heart of downtown Baghdad came less than a week before the 10-year anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, showing how vulnerable this country remains to insurgent attacks.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda’s Iraqi arm. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, frequently uses car bombs and coordinated blasts in an effort to undermine Iraqis’ confidence in the Shiite-led government.