BAGHDAD – Suicide bombers in a crowded Baghdad commercial district and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit killed as many as 33 people Sunday as insurgents tried to turn a months-long deadlock over forming a new Iraqi government to their advantage.
The latest violence began when bombers drove two cars packed with ammonium nitrate toward the gates of the Trade Bank of Iraq building in Baghdad and detonated the explosives after striking the surrounding blast walls, said Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi.
Al-Moussawi said at least 18 people died and 42 were wounded. But police officials and a doctor at the Yarmouk hospital where many victims were taken put the toll at 28 killed and 57 wounded. Conflicting casualty tolls are common in the chaotic aftermath of bombings in Iraq.
Hours later, a man wearing an explosives vest blew himself up as police and onlookers responded to a roadside bomb apparently set as a trap in the northern city of Tikrit. At least five people were killed and 12 wounded in the late night attack, according to police and hospital officials.
Sectarian bloodshed that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007 has dropped sharply after a series of U.S.-Iraqi offensives, a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and a Shiite militia cease-fire. But Iraqis still face near-daily attacks.
Many are venting their anger at politicians for failing to choose a prime minister and form a government, even though the new parliament was seated last week. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been acting in a caretaker role as he battles to keep his job after a rival Sunni-backed political bloc won a narrow victory in the March 7 parliamentary vote.
The head of the Iraqiya bloc, Ayad Allawi, has warned more violence could ensue if the Sunnis who backed him feel sidelined by a Shiite alliance between al-Maliki’s party and a hard-line religious group.
Established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Trade Bank of Iraq is at the forefront of efforts to attract foreign investment.
Bank chairman Hussein al-Uzri said five guards were among the dead and six others were wounded. He blamed the attack on insurgents trying to undermine Iraq’s progress and promised they would fail.
“The work of building Iraq’s economic strength … goes on uninterrupted, as does the work of the bank, which will be open for business tomorrow,” he said in a statement.