19/01/2005

Series of bomb attacks hit central Baghdad

US military sources have confirmed that four car bombs in the Iraqi capital Baghdad this morning have killed at least 26 people.

The attacks occurred in quick succession and involved the Australian embassy, eastern Iraqi police headquarters, the international airport and an Iraqi military complex.

The first of the bomb attacks, which took place at around 7.00am local time (4.00am GMT), was close to the Australian embassy. The blast killed two Iraqis and injured at least six others. Two Australian troops were slightly injured in the blast.

In the attack on a building used by the Australian military close to the embassy, the suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into sandbags and a concrete blast screen before detonating the bomb. Australian news sources report that none of the embassy staff were injured in the attack, though windows were blown in and debris hit the embassy building.

Around 30 minutes later, a blast outside a security barrier close to a police station and a hospital in the eastern part of the city killed 18 people, including five members of the Iraqi police.

US sources said a third bomb killed two Iraqi security personnel close the international airport in Baghdad and a fourth bomb at an Iraqi military installation had killed two Iraqi soldiers and two civilians.

According to news agencies, Iraqi police have reported that a bomb explosion occurred near to a bank in northern Baghdad that is used to pay police salaries. However, it remains unclear whether this is a separate attack or is one of those already detailed by US military sources.

Insurgents have stepped up attacks on Iraqi security personnel in Baghdad in the run up to the elections that are due to be held in 11 days time.

Local Iraqi forces are to provide protection at the country's polling stations during the January 30 election.

(SP)

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