At Least 118 Killed in Series Car Bombings in Baghdad

A series of car bombings have killed at least 118 people and wounded 197 in the centre of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

The first blast targeted a police patrol in the Dora district of the city. Four others occurred near official buildings within minutes.

Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie blamed al-Qaeda militants for the attacks.

He told the BBC their aim was to destabilise the country ahead of general elections due in Febuary.

"Al-Qaeda has been active in Baghdad recently," Mr Rubaie said.

"The aim is to show the government is unable to protect civilian and its own people and also to deter people from going to ballot boxes," BBC News reports.

However the Baghdad Government and the US military have warned of a rise in attacks in the run up to a general election expected to take place in February.

The threat of political violence linked to the election is a major concern for the Iraqi Government and US forces after bloody attacks in Baghdad in August and October that killed more than 250 people.

The attacks, including truck bombings outside the Finance, Foreign and Justice Ministries, punctured confidence in the Iraqi security forces. General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, said in November: "We believe that there will be an attempt to conduct more attacks between now and the election," Times Online informs.

The bombings marked the most serious spate of violence in Baghdad since twin car bombs on Oct. 25 struck outside Baghdad administration offices, killing at least 155 people.

The breakdown of casualties among the sites was not immediately clear, but the most serious bloodshed had been reported outside the new Finance Ministry building.

In August, suicide bombers hit the finance and foreign ministries, killing more than 100 people.

Overall violence has dropped sharply around Iraq in the past year, but insurgents have stepped up attacks at government sites.

Iraqi officials blamed the October attacks on loyalists to Saddam Hussein's banned Baathist Party - even bringing out three suspects on national television who gave what officials termed confessions, Washington Post informs.

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