Firefighters try to extinguish a burning bus after a car bombing in Baghdad. (Hadi Mizban / Associated…)
Reporting from Baghdad — At least 30 Iraqi police officers and civilians were killed and dozens injured Thursday morning in a series of rush-hour car bombings, explosions and attacks by gunmen that rocked Baghdad.
The hour-plus string of violence, largely aimed at government security officers, began when gunmen took over a security checkpoint near the Sarafiya Bridge in Baghdad's center, killing six police officers and injuring three.
Eight additional attacks occurred across the city, including a car bombing in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Karada, which killed nine civilians and injured 26. The explosion damaged cars and shops, and shook buildings blocks away.
Ali Sabah Qadim, 48, a men's clothing shop owner in the neighborhood, said the bomb went off as an official motorcade passed about 7:30 a.m. He theorized that the attacks were a response to recent comments by an Interior Ministry official that bombings and assassinations in Iraq had gone down because foreign insurgents had returned to their home countries.
"These explosions increase our concern that security in Baghdad is still not good," the shopkeeper said. "What is the guilt of those innocent children who were going to their schools? Today we have a new number to be added to the orphans, widows and handicapped in Iraq."
Near a popular restaurant in northwest Baghdad's Kadhimiya district, a car bomb went off about 8:30 a.m., killing six civilians and injuring 15.
Police officer Abu Ahmed, 43, said the explosion sent white smoke billowing through the area. Those injured were mostly officials, students and Shiite pilgrims heading to the Kadhimiya shrine.
Parliament Speaker Usama Nujaifi said in a statement: "The bombings and criminal violence, which targeted the Iraqi civilians on Thursday, are aiming to stoke the fire of strife between the sons of the Iraqi people."
They were designed to thwart an Arab League summit and a national conference scheduled for March in Baghdad, she said, and "give a clear sign to the involvement of sides from outside trying to export their internal problems to Iraq."
Salman is a special correspondent.