Suicide attackers detonated three car bombs near embassies in Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 38 people and wounding more than 200 others in near-simultaneous bombings.
Iraqi authorities said they foiled two other attacks aimed at diplomatic targets.
The bombings came two days after a chilling execution-style attack by gunmen who raided homes south of Baghdad, killing 24 people, many of them believed to be fighters opposed to al-Qaida.
The rise in bloodshed after a relative lull deepened fears that insurgents are seizing on the political uncertainty after last month's close parliamentary elections to sow further instability.
The blasts went off within minutes of each other — one near the Iranian Embassy and two others in an area which houses several diplomatic sites.
The force of the blasts shook buildings and rattled windows miles away. TV footage showed civilians outside the Iranian Embassy loading casualties into police vehicles and ambulances. Stunned victims in bloody clothes fled the scene as smoke rose. One man was cradling a small girl wearing a white dress in his arms.
Hassan Karim (32), who owns a clothing shop near one of the bomb sites, said the first blast shattered windows and knocked all the shelves off the walls. He ran outside after the second explosion just minutes later.
“I saw children screaming while their mothers held their hands or clutched them to their chest,” he said. “Cars were crashing into each other in streets, trying to find a way to flee.”
Officials said the carnage might have been worse and they thwarted two additional attacks.
Security forces shot and killed a man wearing a suicide belt in a fourth bomb-rigged car near the former German embassy, which is now a bank in the capital's Karrada district.
Another senior Iraqi security official said a fifth bomber was captured on his way to the Mansour area where two of the explosions happened.
The official said Iraqi forces were tipped off about a possible attack against diplomatic targets and had begun beefing up security precautions on Saturday. He credited these measures with ensuring the embassies themselves did not suffer serious damage.
Several Iraqi guards at the Egyptian Consulate and one Iraqi guard at the German Embassy were killed, authorities said.