- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

BAGHDAD | A massive terrorist attack on government buildings in central Baghdad - the third since August - left at least 127 people dead, hundreds wounded and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s political future in doubt.

The attack sent parliament into emergency session, where calls for an investigation opened a rift within Mr. al-Maliki’s Shi’ite bloc, which dominates the legislature.

Hassan Shamari of the Shi’ite Fadila Party called for the force known as the “Baghdad Brigade” to be dissolved.

The brigade reports directly to Mr. al-Maliki, a leader of the rival Shi’ite Dawa Party. Its functions often overlap with the military and other security services.

In Tuesday’s attack, most casualties came from three vehicle bombs that exploded shortly after a government council set a date for nationwide elections in early March.

Shortly before 10:30 a.m., one payload detonated at the Finance Ministry’s new headquarters, which replaced a building blown up in August.

A second bomb hit the Labor Ministry, while a third heavily damaged an academy where judges are trained.

Officials said at least two of the three explosions were suicide attacks.

Earlier in the day, two bombings hit other Baghdad neighborhoods.

As rescuers struggled to reach victims beneath piles of twisted steel and concrete, the U.S., United Nations, Arab League and others were quick to condemn the attack.

Mr. al-Maliki blamed the attack on “foreign elements” and called it a “cowardly” attempt to undermine the elections - slated for March 7.

“This has the touch of al Qaeda and the Ba’athists,” Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, a spokesman for Baghdad security operations, told Agence France-Presse.

No one claimed responsibility.

The past five months have been marked by three spectacular attacks in the heart of Baghdad - attacks that belie a decline in overall violence.

An August strike killed more than 100, followed by twin bombings in October that killed at least 155. Finance, Justice and Foreign ministries were the primary targets.

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