Iraq officials say at least 12 dead as 3 loud explosions rock city

Baghdad, Iraq (AP)- Suicide attackers detonated three car bombs near foreign embassies in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 21 people and wounding more than 100, authorities said. The attack deepened fears that insurgents will seize on the political turmoil after last month's parliamentary elections to sow further instability.

The blasts went off within minutes of each other - one near the Iranian embassy, and two others in an area that houses several foreign embassies, including the Egyptian and German embassies, said a spokesman for the city's operations command centre. It was not immediately clear whether anyone from the embassies was among the dead or wounded.

The spokesman said authorities believed the explosions targeted diplomatic missions. He confirmed that all three explosions were suicide car bombs. Two police officials and a doctor said at least 14 people were killed outside the Iranian embassy, where civilians could be seen loading casualties into police vehicles and ambulances.

Stunned victims, many in blood-spattered clothes, were fleeing the scene as smoke rose in the background. One man was seen running through the street carrying a small child in his arms. The police officials said many of the victims were employees at a nearby state-run bank. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details to the media. At least seven were killed in the other explosions, police officials said. Police said at least 140 people were wounded in all three attacks.

The force of the blasts shook buildings and rattled windows in the centre of the capital. Police said they arrested a man who was suspected of planning to detonate a suicide car bomb near the former German Embassy, which is now a bank. The man was arrested inside a car loaded with explosives, officials said.

Sunday's explosions come two days after an execution-style shooting attack killed at least 24 Sunni Iraqis. The slayings re-ignited fears of the sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007. There have been increasing concerns that insurgents will take advantage of Iraq's political turmoil to further destabilize the country, nearly a month after parliamentary elections failed to give any candidate a decisive win.

Many fear a drawn-out political debate could spill over into violence and complicate US efforts to speed up troop withdrawals in the coming months. Sunday's explosions, which occurred shortly before 11:30 a.m. (0830 GMT), came after a number of far smaller blasts overnight and early Sunday. One of those earlier blasts, believed to be caused by a bomb underneath a parked car killed one civilian and injured nine others, according to police.

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