The remains of a vehicle used in a bombing in Taji, Iraq. (Reuters )
Reporting from Baghdad — A car bomb and a smaller explosive device detonated Tuesday morning close to a parking area for municipal employees in a town outside Baghdad, leaving 36 people dead and 54 wounded, according to police and hospital sources.
The blasts occurred as people reported to work at the municipal building in Taji, 12 miles north of the capital.
Late Monday, at least three more people were killed and 13 wounded when a Katyusha rocket was fired into Baghdad's Green Zone enclave, home to enbassies and the Iraqi government. The rocket hit trailers for the construction crew working on the Rashid Hotel, a landmark building in the capital that is being renovated.
The bombings were the latest in a series of attacks across Iraq, many of them targeting government employees, that serve as a reminder that the war-torn country is still far from stable and continues to face a tenacious insurgency even as U.S. security forces prepare to complete their withdrawal at year's end.
In Taji, police reported that the two explosions occurred within minutes during rush hour, and ambulances were not able to quickly evacuate the injured.
"Thanks to God, firstly I survived the twin explosions," said factory worker Rasim Ubaidi. "I was trying to get there [to the municipal building] because I should renew my ration card coupon.
"Flesh of people flew in the sky like birds. I can't believe what I saw."
He said his survival was a matter of luck. "My wife says that I should slaughter a sheep to celebrate my safety," Ubaidi said.
As the Iraqi government weighs whether to request that some American troops stay if the nation's security forces still need help, Ubaidi mouthed a conspiracy theory making the rounds here that lays the uptick in violence to a plot by Americans or supporters who want them to stay.
"I don't rule out that there are some American hands in this because they want to tell the people that you still need us here and we should keep troops in Iraq," Ubaidi said.
Taji, home to a major Iraqi and U.S. military base, is surrounded by a cluster of Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities. During the civil warfare that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the rural area just outside Baghdad was racked by violence caused both by Shiite militias and the Sunni-run Al Qaeda in Iraq militant group.
Jaff is a staff writer in The Times' Baghdad bureau.