A suicide car bomber killed at least 18 and injured dozens more on Tuesday in a strike against a police crime lab in central Baghdad, a day after several hotels were hit by suicide attacks, officials said.
Rescue crews are still combing through the rubble looking for casualties. Officials say the majority of those killed were likely police officers who worked in the forensic investigation office at Tahariyat Square in the central neighborhood of Karradah. At least 82 people were reported injured.
This week’s bombings — all against prominent and heavily fortified targets — dealt yet another blow to the image of an Iraqi government struggling to answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out a number of massive attacks in the heart of the capital since August.
Police and hospital officials said the bomber in Tuesday’s attack tried to drive a pickup truck through a checkpoint and blast walls protecting the forensic evidence office.
Among those confirmed killed were 12 police officers and six civilians who were visiting the office. Officials said more than half the wounded were police.
Shortly after the bombing, rescue teams in blue jumpsuits combed through the debris of the partially damaged three-story building as a crane removed some of the 10-foot, 7-ton concert blast walls toppled by the blast.
The office targeted in the attack mainly deals with data collected during criminal investigations, including fingerprints and other pieces of evidence. The office is located next to the Interior Ministry’s major crimes office, which deals with terrorism cases.
Government offices have been frequent targets of major attacks in the capital since blasts struck the foreign and finance ministries in August, raising questions about the ability of Iraqi security forces to keep the country safe. While the criminal evidence offices have not been targeted by a major suicide bombing before, attackers have struck nearby.
The attack destroyed rooms on the ground floor of the building and damaged parts of the second floor, raising fears the number of casualties could grow, a police officer on the scene said.
The office is surrounded by low-rise buildings that contain shops, takeaway restaurants and offices that were also damaged.
Tuesday’s attack comes one day after a series of bombings targeting hotels favoured by Westerners.
The toll from those blasts continued to rise, with 41 people confirmed killed and up to 106 reported injured, police and health officials said on Tuesday.
The bombings on Monday targeted the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel, Babylon Hotel and Hamra Hotel, which are popular with Western journalists and foreign security contractors.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill issued a statement Tuesday strongly condemning the attacks against the hotels.
“The terrorists who committed these senseless crimes aim to sow fear among the Iraqi people,” he said. “We call upon all Iraqis to unite in combating all forms of violence and attempts at intimidation.”