Baghdad: The Iraqi government blamed the bloodiest bombings in years on al Qaeda and other extremists, but many ordinary Iraqis think political infighting before next year's election is the cause and fear worse is yet to come.
Hundreds of mourners poured into the area where twin suicide bombs on Sunday killed 155 people, railing against politicians and the security forces in a funeral march, local media showed. Baghdad was ensnared in a traffic jam as the government, facing criticism for the attacks, set up extra checkpoints.
"The blood of Iraqis is very cheap and I ask, how many victims will it take to convince the government that it has totally failed?" Hameed Salam, a former Army officer now driving a taxi cab, shouted in the traffic jam on Monday.
Iraq's January ballot is expected to focus on security gains under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after years of war, and sticky questions about the distribution of power and oil wealth.
The threat of more attacks looms as rivals seek to undermine Maliki, and insurgents try to upset the electoral process.
Two mini-buses were used in Sunday's attack, circumventing a ban on truck traffic in heavily policed central Baghdad, said the city's security spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi.
One bus contained a ton of explosives and the other 600-750 kg, he said. Both were driven by suicide bombers from a nearby site, according to aerial images from US-operated airships that hover over the city.
Many Iraqis say they see divisions and infighting ahead of Iraq's second post-invasion national vote as the prime source of instability in the world's 11th largest crude producer.
While violence has fallen since Washington sent thousands of extra troops, attacks are common in the politically-divided nation of 30 million people.
"The government is not in control of the security situation and political leaders quarrel over power," said Alaa Hussain, a former military officer.
"Maliki is not a superman and he cannot take control over the security of the country unless there is cooperation and union between the parties and politicians."
Iraqi health and security officials both confirmed the raised death toll. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release information to the media.
Massive car bombs have been the hallmark of the Sunni insurgents seeking to overthrow the country's Shi’ite-dominated government. Iraq has accused members of the outlawed Baath Party living in neighbouring Syria of being behind another series of deadly bombings in August that also targeted government buildings and killed more than 100 people.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has staked his political reputation and re-election bid on his ability to bring peace to the country, blamed Sunday's attacks on al Qaeda and supporters of the previous regime of Saddam Hussein.
He pledged to punish those responsible, who he said wanted to "spread chaos in the country, undermine the political process and prevent the holding of Parliamentary Elections."
The street where the blasts occurred had just been reopened to vehicle traffic six months ago. Shortly after, blast walls were repositioned to allow traffic closer to the government buildings — all measures part of changes hailed by al-Maliki as a sign that safety was returning to the city.
President Barack Obama, who earlier this week reaffirmed the US commitment to withdrawing its troops from the country, called al-Maliki on Sunday to offer his condolences.
The coordinated bombings were the deadliest since a series of massive truck bombs in northern Iraq killed nearly 500 villagers from the minority Yazidi sect in August 2007. In Baghdad itself, it was the worst attack since a series of suicide bombings against Shi’ite neighbourhoods in April 2007 killed 183.
First Published: Monday, October 26, 2009, 23:54