At least 160 Iraqis have been killed in a series of car bomb and possible mortar attacks in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. The blasts follow a brazen mid-day attack on the Health Ministry that ended in a firefight between gunmen and security forces. VOA's Margaret Besheer has more from northern Iraq.
Iraq's Interior Ministry says at least 160 people are dead and more than 250 injured after multiple blasts in the Shiite-controlled district of Sadr City.
Witnesses say the explosions happened in 15-minute intervals. The force of the blasts destroyed entire streets, in one of the worst bomb attacks in the capital this month. Fierce fires continued to burn after the blasts.
Earlier in the day, gunmen mounted a bold raid on another Shiite target: the Shiite run Health Ministry.
Speaking by telephone to al-Iraqiyah television from inside the ministry during the siege, deputy health minister Hakim al-Zamili said men with machine guns had surrounded the building and fired mortars and ammunition at the ministry.
He says the situation is very bad, and that more than 2,000 employees are hiding in the building, staying far from the windows, because there are snipers outside.
After a fierce street battle lasting a couple of hours between the attackers and Iraqi security forces, officials say the gunmen were repelled and the siege ended. Employees were reported to have left the building.
It was not immediately clear whether any of the attackers were captured or if there were any casualties.
Government officials and ministries are increasingly becoming the target of illegal militias and other criminal bands.
Earlier this week, gunmen kidnapped another deputy health minister from his home in northern Baghdad, while Zamili escaped an assassination attempt on Monday.
Last week, some 80 masked gunmen stormed the predominantly Sunni Arab Higher Education Ministry abducting dozens of people. The fate of some those hostages still remains unknown.