POSTED: 02:45 a.m. HST, Mar 14, 2013
BAGHDAD (AP) — A string of explosions tore through central Baghdad within minutes of each other on Thursday, followed by what appeared to be a coordinated assault by gunmen who battled security forces in the Iraqi capital, according to officials. Authorities say at least 12 people have been killed.
The attack erupted shortly after midday in Baghdad's Allawi area, not far from the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses several foreign embassies and Iraqi government offices. The largely commercial area is home to the Iraqi National Museum and the city's main bus station.
At least two blasts, including one car bomb and another believed to be from a suicide bomber, went off near a building currently housing the Justice Ministry.
A police officer, who was among the troops sent to clear the building, said that approximately six gunmen wearing police uniforms were still holed up inside.
In addition to those killed, the attack wounded at least 30 people, police said. Hospital officials confirmed the casualty numbers. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim said there were more than 1,000 people in the four-story building when the explosions happened. He said the minister is abroad and was not inside.
"When the explosions and shooting started, the guards evacuated me out a back door, and I have no idea what happened after that," he said, speaking over the telephone from outside the building.
Violence in Iraq has subsided from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but deadly attacks remain frequent a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida's Iraq arm. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, frequently uses car bombs and coordinated blasts in an effort to undermine the Iraqis' confidence in the Shiite-led government.
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.