A suicide bomber struck at a police forensics lab in central Baghdad, killing 18 and wounding scores more. The attack is the second in the Iraqi capital in two days.
A car packed with explosives was rammed into a building operated by the Baghdad Police College, a school in the Karada district that is run by the Ministry of the Interior. The suicide bomber attempted to run a checkpoint and detonated the bomb outside the Criminal Evidence Department.
Eighteen Iraqis were killed and more than 80 were wounded in the blast, which leveled the building and damaged nearby homes and shops. Most of those killed worked at the forensics lab, Iraqi officials said.
The Baghdad forensics lab has been the target of two other suicide attacks. The lab is used to gather and catalog evidence on insurgent attacks, including “DNA analysis, advanced firearms microscopy, fingerprint analysis and document analysis,” according to a US military press release from November 2009. The evidence is then used to prosecute captured members of bombing and terror cells.
Today’s strike is the latest in a series of coordinated, mass-casualty attacks that have targeted Iraq’s police, military, judicial, and other government institutions. Yesterday’s attacks, which targeted three hotels primarily used by journalists and killed 36 people, were the exception.
There was an attack on Aug. 19, 2009, outside Iraqi government buildings, that killed more than 120 Iraqis. It was followed by an attack on Oct. 25, 2009, on foreign and finance ministry buildings, that killed more than 130. And on Dec. 8, 2009, strikes killed more than 120 Iraqis at a court complex, a neighborhood near the Interior Ministry, a mosque, and a market.
Al Qaeda in Iraq took credit for the three suicide attacks in 2009. No group has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attacks, but given that suicide bombers were used and the attacks were coordinated, al Qaeda in Iraq is the prime suspect.
The Iraqi government has blamed al Qaeda in Iraq and former Baathists based in Syria for the previous attacks. Iraqi and US officials say that Al Qaeda in Iraq and Baathists are trying to disrupt the upcoming parliamentary elections on March 7 and are seeking to discredit Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s government.
Last year, the top US military commander in Iraq said that al Qaeda’s affiliate has “transformed significantly” and has begun to work more closely with former Baathist groups that are still fighting the Iraqi government and US forces.