Huge Blasts Rock Baghdad, Targeting Government Buildings Near Green Zone

By Sinan Salaheddin | August 19, 2009 | 6:01 AM EDT

Smoke rises over central Baghdad on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009 after a series of large explosions. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Baghdad (AP) - A series of explosions struck the Iraqi capital Wednesday, targeting primarily government and commercial buildings, killing at least a dozen people and wounding more than 100 others, Iraqi officials said.
The blasts follow a string of attacks in Iraq this month that have claimed more than 200 lives and left hundreds more wounded, raising concerns about the abilities of Iraqi security forces to keep the lid on violence in advance of the American withdrawal.
The seemingly coordinated car bomb blasts and mortar attacks began around midmorning Wednesday, striking first near the Finance Ministry in northern Baghdad and then minutes later by the Foreign Ministry near the Green Zone.
The deadliest explosion occurred near the Foreign Ministry, just outside Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone, killing at least seven and wounding at least 55 people, an Iraqi police and medical official said.
A 10-story building that is part of the ministry complex was badly damaged. The explosion was so strong that it also damaged nearby buildings and destroyed dozens of car outside, according to AP Television News  footage. A huge area outside the ministry was covered by debris and broken glass.
The building is close to the street where car bomb exploded but it was not immediately known whether those killed and wounded included ministry employees.
The blast was large enough to damage windows in the parliament building, inside the Green Zone.
The officials said at about the same time mortars also struck inside the Green Zone. It was not immediately known what damage the mortars caused or whether there were causalities. The U.S. military said it could not confirm the explosions.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Another car bomb targeted a joint Iraqi police and army patrol just outside the finance ministry, killing one Iraqi soldier and two civilians, said another police official. Seven others were wounded, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason.
In western Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in a commercial area in Bayaii, killing at least two and wounding five others, said the same official.
Associated Press Writer Hamid Ahmed contributed to this report.
The blasts raise concerns about the abilities of Iraqi security forces to keep the lid on violence in advance of the American withdrawal.