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Twin suicide car bombings in central Baghdad kill 26


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At least 26 people have been killed in a twin suicide car bombing in central Baghdad, Iraqi officials have said.

The bombers blew up their vehicles within minutes of each other outside a state-owned bank and government offices in the capital's Yarmouk district.

One building contained an interior ministry agency where identity cards are issued, and people had been queuing outside at the time of the blasts.

There has been increased unrest in Iraq since March's parliamentary election.

The poll produced no outright winner, and a deal between the various parties to form a coalition government has not yet been reached.

On Monday, the 325 members of the Council of Representatives were sworn in, but the session was immediately suspended until further notice to allow consultations on the election of a new speaker.

The political uncertainty threatens the planned end of US combat operations in August, ahead of a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.

Nevertheless, correspondents say the general level of violence in the country remains far lower than it was at the height of the insurgency and sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007.

Co-ordinated attacks

The explosives-packed cars were stationed in parking lots a few hundred metres apart and blew up at around 1130 (0830 GMT).

The area targeted by the bombers, which includes the headquarters of the publicly-owned Trade Bank of Iraq and interior ministry offices, was crowded with people at the start of the work week.

The Trade Bank of Iraq is one of the public sector's most active financial institutions and at the forefront of efforts to encourage foreign investment.

Several buildings were heavily damaged in the blasts, and among the dead were security personnel deployed outside, officials said.

The attack came just a week after gunmen wearing explosive belts attacked the Iraqi Central Bank, engaging security forces in a lengthy gun battle before blowing themselves up.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says it is not clear whether banks have now become the latest category of target for insurgents, though officials have speculated that they may be turning in that direction because their funds are running out.

However, the attack on the central bank was highly unusual and has left many question marks, our correspondent says.

Responsibility for it has apparently been taken by al-Qaeda's umbrella group in Iraq, but the main objective seems to have been to destroy records inside the bank, and there has been speculation that it may have been an attempt to cover up a huge money-laundering operation, he adds.

Overnight on Saturday, three roadside bombs exploded in the predominantly Shia district of Hurriya, killing at least two people and wounding 14.

Officials told Iraqi media that the first bomb went off on a main street. When locals gathered, the second bomb exploded, and when police came to the site, the third bomb was detonated.

Edited by SexyDinar
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