Terrorist Act Near Iraq Forensic Headquarters Kills 17

A suicide car bomber has killed 17 people and injured 80 in central Baghdad, while destroying Iraq's forensics headquarters, an interior ministry official said updating an earlier toll.

The toll is expected to rise as many people were believed to be in the building at the time, the official said.

"The building collapsed soon after the explosion. Dozens of people usually work in the (forensics) institute," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity, AFP reports.

The hotel bombings on Monday occurred as the government announced that Saddam Hussein's notorious cousin and fearful henchman "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majid had been executed.

Concerns have grown over a sharp rise in violence in the war-weary state ahead of the March 7 elections, the second parliamentary vote since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Press TV informs.

The midafternoon attacks, which authorities quickly blamed on al-Qaeda associates and loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, echoed three large-scale suicide bombings last year in which assailants struck at coordinated targets, sowing panic and chaos across the capital.

Though these latest bombings caused fewer casualties than ones in December, October and August, in which hundreds died, they sent the same deadly message: that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government is unable to fully secure key locations in the capital, despite major security gains in recent years.

But they came as no surprise - officials have been predicting that extremists would strike again at high-profile targets ahead of the country's March 7 elections, and they predicted they would strike again as the polling nears, Denver Post reports.

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