BAGHDAD – Nearly simultaneous truck bombs struck Iraq’s Foreign and Finance ministries Wednesday as a wave of explosions killed at least 95 people, bringing the weaknesses of Iraqi security forces into sharp focus less than two months after U.S. forces withdrew from urban areas.
It was the deadliest day of coordinated bombings since Feb. 1, 2008, when two suicide bombers killed 109 people at pet markets in Baghdad. More than 400 were wounded in Wednesday’s blasts.
The new American role was on sharp display as the military said it responded to onsite requests from Iraqi commanders for assistance, providing intelligence to help guide rescue crews and deploying explosives experts to clear areas of potential bombs.
U.S. transition teams assisted with security cordons and medics helped the wounded. Helicopters buzzed overhead.
“We helped the victims when and where we could, in accordance with our Iraqi allies’ requests,” said Lt. Col. Philip Smith, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Baghdad.
The extent of the carnage shocked the Shiite-led government and dealt a devastating blow to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to return Baghdad to normal and reinforce his chances in parliamentary elections in January.
Al-Maliki blamed Sunni insurgents linked toal-Qaida in Iraq and said the attacks were designed to foil plans to open streets and remove concrete blast walls from Baghdad’s main roads by mid-September.
He said the Iraqi government must reassess security measures — the first government acknowledgment that his moves may have been premature so soon after U.S. troops left the cities at the end of June.