Two suicide car bombs exploded seconds and a few hundred metres (yards) apart in a busy area of central Baghdad Thursday, killing at least 13 people, police and medical sources said.
The blasts went off in Karrada, a district packed with shops and restaurants, shortly after the time when people gather for the iftar meal breaking the dawn-to-dusk fast many Iraqi Muslims observe during the holy month of Ramadan.
“At least 13 people were killed and 29 wounded, but the number of dead is going to rise,” a police colonel told AFP.
A medical source confirmed the death toll.
“We heard the huge booms of the two explosions. We were at the kitchen table for iftar,” said Mohamed Ali al-Hakim, a 43-year-old electronics shop owner, who lives near the site of the blasts.
“The spoons and forks fell off the table and our chairs shook under us. My daughters were shocked and started crying,” he told AFP.
The deadly explosions came amid fears the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group would launch a campaign of terror during the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
The group took control of swathes of Iraq in a blistering onslaught that began last month.
Hakim’s first recriminations were for the government for failing to take control of the security situation.
“It’s a bloody Ramadan, everything is getting worse, we have not noticed any security improvement from the government. They are busy dividing up posts between them but care little about our safety,” he said.
IS took control of large parts of Iraq’s west and north, before stopping its offensive a few dozen kilometres from Baghdad.
But it has continued to wreak havoc in the capital, mainly with suicide attacks, car bombs and improvised explosive devices targeting security forces.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in Baghdad hours earlier on Thursday to meet Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
“I am deeply saddened by the senseless deaths of so many innocent Iraqis,” he said.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of violence, terrorist attacks, and to the men and women of the Iraqi Security Forces who have died in the line of duty.”