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Twin Car Bombs at Baghdad Hotels Kill 15


Smoke rises from the site of car bomb attack in Baghdad, May 29, 2015.
Smoke rises from the site of car bomb attack in Baghdad, May 29, 2015.

Iraqi security officials said two car bombs exploded at two heavily fortified five-star hotels in Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 42 more.

Police said the explosions were detonated by remote control, shattering windows at the recently renovated hotels and destroying numerous vehicles.

The first blast occurred late Thursday in the parking lot of the Babylon Warwick, a hotel overlooking the Tigris River that is frequently used for government meetings and news conferences.

Several minutes later, another car bomb exploded outside the Cristal Grand Ishtar, formerly a Sheraton hotel. In Iraq, like most Muslim-majority countries, Thursday is one of the busiest nights of the week for dining, wedding celebrations and parties.

In the U.S., the military's Central Command spokesman, Colonel Patrick Ryder, said the bombings are likely not the last to occur in Baghdad, but minimized their consequence.

Ryder described them as an "example of the limited nature and scope of the kinds of attacks that (the Islamic State) is able to do" and "clearly not the same kind of military operations" the militants are conducting elsewhere in Iraq.

He said that with the fall of the city Ramadi, west of Baghdad, to the militants, this "past week has been a tough one for the Iraqis." But Ryder said U.S. officials are "confident that Iraqi forces will retake and clear Ramadi."

One eyewitness decried the mayhem and loss of life.

"The two blasts that took place yesterday at the two hotels killed many people, innocent and young people," he said. "What crime have they committed to be killed in such a manner?"

Police defused a third bomb found near the Babylon. One police officer blamed the infiltration of the bombers on negligent hotel guards and weak police security measures.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the blasts, but Iraq is seeing almost daily attacks that have been frequently claimed by Islamic State insurgents, who have seized a large swath of the country over the past year.

Insurgents took control of the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, earlier this month in a serious setback to the Iraqi government and a U.S. campaign of airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

Regaining Ramadi

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this week that the U.S. believes the fight in Ramadi will require a multi-sectarian force to succeed.

"The reason for that is Iraq is a very diverse country and they are going to need every element of their diversity to counter this specific threat ... and it is going to require a multi-sectarian security force to take the fight to ISIL [Islamic State] and to not just drive ISIL out of the country, but also to hold the ground," he said.

On Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said defense officials are looking at ways to enhance efforts to train and equip pro-government forces in Iraq as they battle IS fighters.

The defense chief said that speeding up training and getting equipment to the battlefield will affect Iraqi forces with "their confidence in their ability to operate." He said the effort should also include preparing Sunni fighters to join the fight.

"I think one particular way that's extremely important is to involve the Sunni tribes in the fight," he said. "That means training and equipping them."

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