Blasts rip Baghdad, killing 50

BAGHDAD — At least seven bombs ripped through apartment buildings across Baghdad Tuesday and another struck a market, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 180, authorities said.

The explosions were the latest in a five-day spree of attacks in and around the capital that have killed at least 119 people. Several bombs were planted inside empty apartments, the government said.

The violence, which has largely targeted families and homes, is reminiscent of the sectarian bloodshed that tore Iraq apart from 2005 to 2007 and prompted the United States to send tens of thousands more troops to the front lines. But even since that time, sectarian violence and attacks on civilians have flared in cycles, especially surrounding important events such as the election.

Iraqi and U.S. officials both blamed the latest spike in attacks on al-Qaida insurgents seizing on gaping security lapses created by the political deadlock that has gripped the country since its March 7 parliamentary election failed to produce a clear winner.

“This is blamed on the power vacuum of course, and on how democracy is being raped in Iraq,” former prime minister Ayad Allawi told The Associated Press in an interview. His political coalition, Iraqiya, came out ahead in last month’s vote, narrowly edging Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc by just two seats.

“Because people are sensing there are powers who want to obstruct the path of democracy, terrorists and al-Qaida are on the go,” Allawi said. “I think their operations will increase in Iraq.”

He also raised the prospect that the country’s political impasse could last for months as both sides try to cobble together the majority needed to govern.

“It could either be formed in two months or it could last four or five months,” he said.

Al-Maliki adviser Sadiq al-Rikabi challenged Allawi’s suggestion that Iraqi security forces had let down their guard since the elections.

“It is true that terrorism and attacks are attributed to the political situation the country is experiencing, and we have faced terrorism before elections as well,” al-Rikabi said. “Some parts are using terrorism events for political goals.”

Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman for Baghdad’s operations command center, said the attackers detonated homemade bombs and, in one case, a car packed with explosives. He said there were at least seven blasts. The U.S. military in Baghdad said there were eight.

Al-Moussawi said is Iraq in a “state of war” with terrorists.

Police and medical officials said the death toll from Tuesday’s explosions was at least 50, and that women and children were among the dead. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release information publicly.

The first blasts hit around 9:30 a.m. in the primarily Shiite neighborhood of Shula in northwest Baghdad, striking a residential building and an intersection about a mile away, according to police and hospital officials who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

College student Ali Hussein, 22, was riding the bus to school when one of the Shula bombs exploded. He described “people running in different directions with fear.”

“Cars began to collide with one another in the street because of fear,” said Hussein, who fled for home after the blast. “We saw a cloud of fire and black smoke rising from a building at the explosion site, and while we were terrified by this explosion, another one took place.”