Several car bombs went off in Baghdad Sunday morning, killing at least 26 people and wounding dozens of others. The blasts follow a wave of violence in recent weeks.
Ambulances evacuated the wounded, after two suicide bombers detonated their vehicles in Baghad's mostly Sunni Arab Mansour district. The blasts took place during business hours on a crowded street, close to a bank and government offices.
Rescue workers searched for victims amid the rubble and debris, and cranes worked to move the smoldering wreckage of vehicles demolished by the blasts in the middle of the road.
Baghdad's security chief, General Qassem Mohammed Atta indicated that the Iraq Bank for Commerce was the apparent target of the explosions and noted that several police officers were killed by the blasts, along with civilians.
Iraqi government television showed images of the bank with its entire façade of glass windows blown out. Chunks of concrete dangled from other buildings, whose facades were also badly damaged.
Mahmoud Assi, a local resident, describes what happened.
He says that two car bombs exploded, one after the other, and that many security guards were killed in the blasts, which also demolished houses in the area. He adds that such acts reflect the (poor) security situation in Iraq, right now.
Another eyewitness, Ahmed Fadhil, says that he was about to enter the bank when the explosions occurred.
He says that he and others were going into the bank when a car bomb exploded nearby, along with another one, after that.
Several dozen people were killed, last Sunday, after a brazen, daytime attack on Iraq's central bank. Sone banks have also been robbed across Iraq in recent months as well.
James Denselow, a Middle East analyst at King's College London, stresses that it is unusual for suicide bombers to strike a bank, rather than a more symbolic, political target.
"It's interesting in the sense that this is the first time that I've heard of suicide bombers attacking banks," Denselow said. "While I can understand how people can be persuaded to kill themselves in attacks against government ministries or other targets for political reasons, it would seem odd to attack banks, unless this is a reflection of the Sunni insurgency struggling to sort of have its avenues of funding clamped down on by the government and having to resort to more drastic measures to secure that money."
Denselow adds that the current political vacuum in Iraq has created political tensions, but that violence in the country is still just a fraction of what it was at the height of sectarian strife, several years ago.
"I think the metrics of the whole situation are such that although violence is one tenth of what it was during the height of the civil war in 2006-2007, that one tenth is still making a lot of very dangerous (situations)," Denselow said. "And the fact that coordinated, simultaneous suicide attacks on protected institutions can still occur is a shocking indictment of the competency of the security forces and their ability to win the war against the insurgency mafia that has embedded itself in the country."
Some officials fear insurgents may be taking advantage of the political deadlock that followed Iraq's March elections to derail recent security gains.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for Sunday's twin suicide bombings, but they resemble other massive blasts which were the work of al Qaida and Sunni insurgent groups. The explosions come just weeks before U.S. forces are due to end combat operations this August.