by Jamal Hashim
BAGHDAD, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Two truck bombs coordinately exploded in downtown Baghdad Sunday, killing at least 132 people and wounding some 512 others in an apparent attempt to shape a setback to the Iraqi government which struggle to restore normalcy in the country nearly three months ahead of the country's national elections.
The almost simultaneous truck bombings took place at about 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) near the buildings of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and Baghdad Provincial Council in downtown the capital.
The first blast occurred when a truck loaded with explosives believed to be driven by a suicide bomber detonated at a busy intersection near the building of the Ministry of Justice in Salhiyah district, causing severe damages to the building and other surrounding buildings, an Interior Ministry source said.
Shortly, a second truck bomb struck the building of Baghdad Provincial Council about 500 meters away from the first blast which is also close to the Mansour Hotel where many foreign media and companies live, the source said.
"I saw ponds of blood and parts of human bodies scattered close to the blast site near the Mansour Hotel where there is also wreckage of dozens of civilian cars near the site," Xinhua correspondent at the scene said.
The blast also damaged water pipes, causing dirty water to flow out to the street, the correspondent added.
Iraqi security forces sealed off the scene and fire engines arrived to put out fires as columns of black smoke rise above the scene while two U.S. helicopters were hovering over the scene, he said.
The blasts came as violence dropped dramatically during the past two years since the spike of sectarian strife that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the war-torn country. The attack revealed the nature of the security situation in the country that insurgents still have the ability to carry out deadly attacks in the heart of Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited the blast sites shortly after the attacks, and spoke to security officers and other officials.
During his visit, Maliki said that the attacks would not affect the political process or the parliamentary elections due on Jan. 16, 2010 and pledged to punish those who are behind the bombings.
Maliki reiterated his accusation to the "remnants of the dismantled regime and Qaida militants," referring to Saddam Hussein's Baath party members and Qaida organizations in Iraq.
Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman of Baghdad operations command, said that investigations are still underway as the devastation is enormous and the vehicles used in the bombings have turned into small pieces.
"Our experts are active to find out more details about the brutal attacks," Atta told reporters.
"The terrorists are targeting the government and the political process in the country," he said.
Jawad al-Bolani, Minister of Interior, told local media that the attacks are similar to the August 19 deadly attacks that targeted two Iraqi ministries, killing and wounding some 1,300 Iraqis.
"The attacks bear the same finger prints of the bloody Wednesday (August 19 attacks)," Bolani said.
Hassan al-Janabi, 35, angrily told Xinhua that "every time there is political disagreement or a new stage of the political process like the coming elections, we have deadly bombings."
Sunday's deadly bombings came as Iraqi political leaders were to meet in the evening to find a way out of the deadlock over the proposed election bill which threatens to delay the country's national elections due in next January.
Ali al-Dabagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, said Sunday's deadly attacks will be on the table of the Political Council for National Security meeting, confirming that the attacks were targeting the elections.
On Wednesday, Iraqi parliament speaker Ayad al-Samarrai said the parliament failed to overcome differences over the amendments of the electoral law and therefore they referred the controversial bill to the Political Council of National Security, which comprises of President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the heads of political parliamentary blocs, in addition to Samarrai himself.
Observers here say that the stumbling block to approve the proposed amendments on the electoral law is mainly differences among the parliamentary blocs over the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad.
The Kurds demanded to incorporate Kirkuk in their autonomous region, while the Arab and Turkmen communities opposed the Kurdish ambitions and insisted on either staying under Baghdad control or being a separate federal region.