BAGHDAD — Suicide attackers detonated three car bombs in quick succession near foreign embassies in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 42 people in coordinated strikes that Iraqi officials said were intended to disrupt efforts to form a new government.
Sunday’s explosions went off within minutes of each other, starting shortly after 11 a.m. One struck near the Iranian Embassy and two others hit an area that houses several diplomatic missions, including the Egyptian Consulate and the German and Spanish embassies.
Authorities said they foiled two other attacks aimed at diplomatic targets by stopping the would-be bombers’ vehicles and defusing the explosives.
The bombings followed the masscre of 24 villagers in a Sunni area two days earlier, a spike in violence that suggests insurgents are seizing on the political uncertainty after the recent election to try to destabilize the country as U.S. troops prepare to leave. No clear winner emerged from the March 7 vote.
On Sunday, stunned victims in bloody clothes were loaded into ambulances as gray smoke rose over Baghdad.
“I saw children screaming,” said Hassan Karim, 32, who owns a clothing shop in Baghdad. “Cars were crashing into each other in streets, trying to find a way to flee.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although multiple, coordinated bombings in the capital are a hallmark of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Several Iraqi guards from the German and Egyptian missions were confirmed dead, authorities said. One police official said many of the victims were employees at a state-run bank near the Iranian Embassy. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The attackers wore suicide vests and drove cars laden with explosives, said Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the city’s operations command center. Guards at the Egyptian Consulate opened fire on one of the attackers as he drove toward them, but they were unable to stop him.
At least two other planned attacks were thwarted.
Security forces fatally shot a man wearing a suicide belt before he could detonate another bomb-rigged car near the former Germany Embassy, which is now a bank, al-Moussawi said. A fifth would-be bomber was captured on his way to the area where two of the explosions happened, said a senior Iraqi security official.
The official said Iraqi forces were tipped off about a possible attack against diplomatic targets and had started beefing up security Saturday, which he credited with keeping the embassies from serious damage.
Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the bombings were an attempt to inject more turmoil into the political scene as the election front-runners try to forge a coalition government.
“These terrorists will not be able to stop Iraqis and friends of the Iraqi people from building a free, secure and prosperous future,” the ministry said.