Baghad blasts kill 37
BAGHDAD – Suicide bombers struck in quick succession Monday at three Baghdad hotels favored by Western journalists in well-planned assaults that killed at least 37 people and wounded more than 100.
The attacks were another blow to an Iraqi government already struggling to answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out massive attacks in the heart of the Iraqi capital since August, raising serious questions about the country’s stability ahead of the March 7 parliamentary elections.
The blasts were launched over a span of 15 minutes, shortly before Iraq announced it had hanged Saddam Hussein’s notorious henchman “Chemical Ali” and gave rise to speculation about possible links to the attacks.
The first explosion struck near the Sheraton Hotel, along the Abu Nawas esplanade across the Tigris River from the Green Zone. The force of the blast toppled a row of 10-foot, 7-ton concrete blast walls protecting the site, tore cars apart and damaged a number of other buildings.
Although known in Baghdad as the Sheraton Ishtar, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. – owners of the Sheraton brand – pulled out of the hotel years ago.
Two other blasts followed minutes later, striking near the Babylon Hotel and Hamra Hotel, which is popular with Western journalists and foreign security contractors
Militants in business suits walking alongside a suicide car bomb opened fire on a private security checkpoint at the Hamra, police and guards said. The hotel and the compound in which it is located is home to the Baghdad offices of several Western news organizations, including the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, NBC and the Los Angeles Times.
No Westerners were reported killed or seriously injured in any of Monday’s attacks.
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