Two separate suicide bombings in Iraq's Anbar province have left 23 dead and dozens wounded. The provincial governor was reportedly wounded in the second blast after he went to inspect the aftermath of the first explosion.
Twin suicide attacks in the space of half an hour shook the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, Wednesday, provoking panic and causing dozens of casualties.
An Iraqi policeman fired his gun into the air, as others directed traffic out of the area close to the explosions. Government TV showed panicky pedestrians running for cover, as puffs of black smoke rose over Ramadi.
An ambulance could be heard evacuating casualties from the second explosion, which reportedly targeted the provincial governor of Anbar province, after he had left his office to view damage from the initial blast.
Police say a suicide-bomber dressed in an Iraqi Army uniform ran up to the governor, then blew himself up after being tackled by several bodyguards. Iraqi TV reports that governor Qassim Mohammed Abed was taken to a hospital in Baghdad in serious condition.
A number of top Anbar province security officials were killed or wounded in the explosions.
The deputy governor of Anbar province Hekmat Khalaf Zaidan complained to the press that Iraqi security forces had been "infiltrated" by al-Qaida and other outside elements, which he says were behind the bombings.
Faisal al-Aissawi, a member of the Anbar province legislative council accused outside forces, which he refused to specify, for sowing chaos in Ramadi, just weeks before parliamentary elections:
He says that forces from outside Anbar province are trying to disrupt things in the lead up to parliamentary elections, and discourage people from participating, in addition to attacking those symbols of integrity and independence in the province.
Iraqi security forces reportedly closed all roads leading into Ramadi in the aftermath of the bombings, refusing to allow vehicles to enter or leave the town.
Wednesday's attacks in Ramadi were the latest in a wave of explosions since August. U.S. commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno has warned of stepped up violence in the lead-up to parliamentary elections set for March 7. He has also said that it is possible to slow down the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals if the situation required it.