Al-Qaeda in Iraq claims responsibility for ministry attack
File picture dated March 20, 2003 shows smoke billowing after a missile hit the planning ministry in Baghdad as the Iraqi capital came under heavy US-led bombardment on the first day of the US-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein. (AFP / Ramzi Haidar)
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Al-Qaeda’s front group in Iraq has claimed a brazen coordinated attack involving a series of bombings and the storming of a ministry complex in central Baghdad, a monitoring service said on Sunday.
The group, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed to have killed up to 60 people, according to the U.S.-based SITE Monitoring Service.
Security and medical officials told AFP that 18 people died in the March 14 attack near Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which is home to several government buildings as well as the American and British embassies.
The attack was the latest to raise questions about the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces, just days before the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of the country and weeks ahead of its first elections in three years.
Last week, the al-Qaeda Iraqi front group claimed an attack on a convoy in west Iraq that killed 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi guards, in a statement posted on jihadist forums on Monday.
The soldiers had entered Iraq for medical treatment and were being transported through the western province of Anbar on their way back to Syria when the attack took place on March 4, according to the Iraqi defense ministry.
Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has long warned that Syria’s increasingly sectarian war might spill over the border and reignite his own country’s combustible Shi’ite-Sunni mix.
Suicide bombers have already stepped up attacks in recent weeks to a frequency Iraq has not suffered in years.