BAGHDAD: Suicide bombers in two cars killed 26 people and wounded 53 in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Sunday when they drove down a crowded street and blew themselves up simultaneously, security officials said.
The morning bombings, which came hot on the heels of attacks late on Saturday that killed seven people and wounded 20, underlined the dangers of a resurgence of violence amid a persistent political vacuum more than three months after a general election.
The bombers struck outside a bank in a major thoroughfare in the mainly Sunni Arab Mansur district that provides access to the fortified Green Zone government and embassy compound in the city centre from western Iraq.
"The report of the bomb disposal team confirmed that the two attacks that happened in Mansur today were carried out by suicide bombers who drove the car bombs," the capital’s operations command said.
"Each car was loaded with 80 kilogrammes (176 pounds) of ammonium nitrate," the command said in a statement.
"They were detonated simultaneously. They targeted the Iraq Bank for Commerce."
The bank is the conduit for much of the government’s foreign exchange transactions and its dealings with investors.
"The bank branch was seriously damaged," a security official told AFP.
Among the casualties were women and children, as well as traffic police based nearby. The street was also busy with people queueing to renew passports or visas in adjacent government offices, the official added.
The twin bombs marked the deadliest day in Iraq since May 10 when four bombs in the mainly Shia central city of Hilla and other attacks killed more than 100 people — the highest toll of this year.
US and Iraqi officials had warned of the dangers of an upsurge of violence if negotiations on forming a new governing coalition dragged on too long, giving insurgent groups an opportunity to further destabilise the country.
Three and a half months after a general election which gave no single bloc an overall parliamentary majority, the two lists that won most seats are still bickering over who should be the next prime minister.
Both former premier Iyad Allawi and incumbent Nuri Al-Maliki insist that they are best placed to tackle the insecurity still rocking the country.
On Saturday evening, three roadside bombs planted in Hurriya, a Shia neighborhood in the north of Baghdad, killed four people and wounded 16, a security official told AFP.
Fire from a Katyusha multiple rocket launcher killed three people and wounded four in Al-Obeidi, an anarchic Shia slum district in the far east of the capital beyond the sprawling Shia bastion of Sadr City, an official said.
And in the Zayouna neighborhood of central Baghdad, police found the bodies of five women. A security official said they were believed to have been killed two or three weeks ago.
There has been a spate of attacks by hardline Islamists against women accused of breaking the mores of their ultra-strict brand of the Muslim religion.
Government figures showed that 337 people were killed as a result of violence in May, the fourth time this year that the overall death toll has been higher than in the corresponding month of 2009.