BAGHDAD - A barrage of bombings killed nine people in two of Iraq's largest cities yesterday, stoking Iraqis' anger that insurgents continue to slip past security forces amid looming national elections and the U.S. military's planned exit.
The explosions in Baghdad and Mosul come on the heels of last week's horrific suicide bombings in the Iraqi capital that killed 127 people and wounded more than 500. Those blasts intensified pressure on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to improve security as he heads into elections in March.
Though not as deadly as past attacks, yesterday's bombings struck the same open wound: They were the fourth in recent months to target government buildings and were the latest to hit near the Green Zone, Baghdad's most fortified neighborhood, housing parliament, ministries, and the U.S. Embassy.
"There were two military checkpoints using detectors at the beginning of the street. How can such car bombs manage to enter and explode?" said a Baghdad woman who identified herself as Um Ali, her cheeks smeared with blood as she screamed at reporters.
Another bystander, who did not identify himself, shouted angrily that the government was hiding in the Green Zone: "Let the officials get out of the Green Zone!"
In Baghdad, three parked cars packed with mines and other bombs exploded within minutes of one another about 7:30 a.m. outside different entrances to the Green Zone, just as Iraqis were coming to the area for work.
One of the bombs went off near the Foreign Ministry, which was targeted in an August bombing; two others exploded near the Immigration Ministry and the Iranian Embassy. Five people were killed and at least 16 wounded, according to Iraqi officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Thick clouds of black smoke billowed as firefighters and neighborhood residents worked to put out fires, and security forces fired their guns into the air to disperse growing crowds. Authorities quickly arrested owners of three parking lots where the bombs exploded, charging them with failing to carefully search the cars and check vehicle-registration papers.
Four hours later and 225 miles away, in the northwestern Iraqi city of Mosul, two more car bombs and a roadside mine killed four people. The attacks appeared to target a busy neighborhood and a church, wounding up to 40 people, a doctor at Mosul general hospital said, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
Mosul, which is Iraq's third-largest city and is politically dominated by Sunnis, has been a lingering urban foothold for al-Qaeda even as violence has declined across the country.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings. Insurgent groups associated with al-Qaeda have claimed responsibility for last week's suicide bombings, as well as two others that targeted government ministries and buildings in Baghdad on Aug. 19 and Oct. 25 and left more than 250 people dead.