102 die in bloody day of blasts

2010-05-10 21:54

Hilla - Three car bombs at a factory, followed by a fourth targeting emergency workers and co-ordinated blasts against security forces killed 102 people on Monday in Iraq's bloodiest day this year.

Nearly 350 people were wounded in around two dozen attacks, a surge in violence that came as the country moved closer to forming a government two months after a general election seen as crucial to US combat troops leaving Iraq by August 31.

The deadliest attack saw two suicide car bombs detonate simultaneously in the car park of a textiles factory in the central city of Hilla, as workers boarded buses to go home, followed minutes later by a third car bomb, police spokesperson Ali al-Shimmari told AFP.

About an hour later, according to Shimmari, a fourth explosives-packed vehicle exploded, engulfing the area as emergency workers treated victims at the scene.

"When I heard the explosions, I rushed outside and saw the massive damage - there were bodies everywhere, people were crying and screaming," said Haidar Ali, 35, who had by chance stayed in the factory to speak to a colleague.

"It's the fault of the government and the company. They care only about their own personal safety, and they left the workers without any security. They were very easy targets."

Dr Ihab al-Dhabhawi, a doctor at Hilla's hospital, said the explosions killed 50 people.

More than 20 attacks

Monday's death toll was the highest since December 8, when 127 people were killed in five massive vehicle-borne bombs across the capital.

There were more than 20 attacks in total on Monday, which Major General Qassim Atta, a security forces spokesperson in Baghdad, said appeared to be a co-ordinated assault on security and civilian targets.

Although violence has dropped in the past two years, the latest unrest will be seen as evidence that insurgents remain capable of wreaking carnage on a grand scale, two months after elections in which no clear winner emerged.

Electoral officials said on Sunday that results from the March 7 vote were nearly finalised, with totals from all but one province sent for ratification. A recount in the lone exception, Baghdad, is more than half complete.

Monday's violence came after figures showed the number of Iraqis killed in violence in April fell slightly month on month, but was almost unchanged from 12 months ago - 328 people died as a result of attacks last month.

Also last month, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the political leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Ayub al-Masri, an Egyptian militant and the group's self-styled "minister of war", died when their safehouse north of Baghdad was bombed.