BAGHDAD — At least five bombs ripped through apartment buildings across Baghdad Tuesday and another struck a market, killing 49 people and wounding more than 160, authorities said.
Iraqi officials blamed al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents for the violence — the latest sign the country’s fragile security is dissolving in the chaos of the unresolved election.
It was the fourth set of attacks with multiple casualties across Iraq in five days, a spate of violence that has claimed more than 100 lives. Attacks have spiked as political leaders scramble to secure enough support to form a government after the March 7 elections failed to produce a clear winner.
Ayad Allawi, whose bloc came out ahead in the vote by two seats over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s, said the political deadlock lies behind the new wave of violence. He also raised the prospect that the impasse could last for months as both sides try to cobble together the majority needed to govern.
“This is blamed on the power vacuum of course, and on how democracy is being raped in Iraq,” Allawi told The Associated Press in an interview. “Because people are sensing there are powers who want to obstruct the path of democracy, terrorists and al-Qaida are on the go. … I think their operations will increase in Iraq.”
He added that he did not foresee any clear timetable to form a government.
“It could either be formed in two months or it could last four or five months,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman for Baghdad’s operations command centre, said the attackers detonated blasts using homemade bombs and, in one case, a car packed with explosives. He said there were at least seven blasts; the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said there were five.
Al-Moussawi blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for the explosions and said Iraq was in a “state of war” with terrorists.
He said most of the buildings are two stories, but one in the Allawi district downtown was five stories.
Police and medical officials said the death toll from the explosions and the car bomb was at least 49, and that women and children were among the dead. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release information publicly.
The explosions started at about 9:30 a.m. at a residential building in the Shula area of northwest Baghdad. Then a car bomb struck in an intersection about a mile away, damaging nearby buildings, police and hospital officials said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the press.
A few minutes later, at 9:45 a.m. a bomb left in a plastic bag exploded at a restaurant in the Allawi district downtown, near the Culture Ministry. Dozens of people gathered at the bomb site in the hours after the explosion, digging through bricks in the hopes of finding survivors.
Several hours later, a parked car bomb exploded in a market, killing six civilians, a police officer said. A doctor at the nearby Yarmouk hospital where those caught in the blast were taken confirmed the causality figures.
College student Ali Hussein, 22, was riding the bus to school when one of the Shula bombs exploded. He described “people running in different directions with fear.”
“Cars began to collide with one another in the street because of fear,” said Hussein, who fled for home after the blast. “We saw a cloud of fire and black smoke rising from a building at the explosion site, and while we were terrified by this explosion, another one took place.”
On Monday, a Shiite couple and four of their children were gunned down in their home outside Baghdad, while more than 40 were killed Sunday after suicide attackers detonated three car bombs near embassies in Baghdad. On Friday, gunmen went house-to-house in a Sunni area south of Baghdad, killing 24 villagers execution-style.
The steady drumbeat of attacks serves as a chilling reminder of the violence that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007. In the face of the recent spike in attacks, U.S. military and diplomatic officials have sought to downplay the possibility that Iraq is heading back down the path toward sectarian bloodshed.
“We’re obviously concerned but we don’t see the parallels with what happened a few years ago,” U.S. Embassy spokesman Philip Frayne said. “We don’t see a sectarian war breaking out again.”
Army Lt. Col. Eric Bloom, a U.S. military spokesman, blamed al-Qaida for all of the attacks, which he described as “random acts of violence.”
Still, many fear such violence and a drawn-out political dispute could allow insurgents to regroup in the political vacuum left after the elections.
Nearly a month after the national vote, Iraq still finds itself in a political deadlock.
Allawi’s secular Iraqiya bloc won 91 of the 325 parliament seats to 89 for the mainly Shiite list of Prime Minister al-Maliki. But both parties are far short of the necessary majority needed to govern alone, which has forced them into bargaining with other smaller blocs to muster the support needed to form a governing coalition.