A suicide car bomberkilled at least 18 and injured dozens more Tuesday in a strike againsta police crime lab in central Baghdad, a day after several hotels werehit by suicide attacks, officials said.
Rescue crews are stillcombing through the rubble looking for casualties. Officials say themajority of those killed were likely police officers who worked in theforensic investigation office at Tahariyat Square in the centralneighborhood of Karradah. At least 82 people were reported injured.
Thisweek's bombings — all against prominent and heavily fortified targets —dealt yet another blow to the image of an Iraqi government strugglingto answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out anumber of massive attacks in the heart of the capital since August.
Policeand hospital officials said the bomber in Tuesday's attack tried todrive a pickup truck through a checkpoint and blast walls protectingthe forensic evidence office.
Among those confirmed killed were12 police officers and six civilians who were visiting the office.Officials said more than half the wounded were police.
Shortlyafter the bombing, rescue teams in blue jumpsuits combed through thedebris of the partially damaged three-story building as a crane removedsome of the 10-foot, 7-ton concert blast walls toppled by the blast.
Theoffice targeted in the attack mainly deals with data collected duringcriminal investigations, including fingerprints and other pieces ofevidence. The office is located next to the Interior Ministry's majorcrimes office, which deals with terrorism cases.
Governmentoffices have been frequent targets of major attacks in the capitalsince blasts struck the foreign and finance ministries in August,raising questions about the ability of Iraqi security forces to keepthe country safe. While the criminal evidence offices have not beentargeted by a major suicide bombing before, attackers have strucknearby.
The attack destroyed rooms on the ground floor of thebuilding and damaged parts of the second floor, raising fears thenumber of casualties could grow, a police officer on the scene said.
The office is surrounded by low-rise buildings that contain shops, takeaway restaurants and offices that were also damaged.
Tuesday's attack comes one day after a series of bombings targeting hotels favored by Westerners.
Thetoll from those blasts continued to rise, with 41 people confirmedkilled and up to 106 reported injured, police and health officials saidTuesday.
The bombings Monday targeted the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel,Babylon Hotel and Hamra Hotel, which are popular with Westernjournalists and foreign security contractors.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details.
US Ambassador Christopher R. Hill issued a statement Tuesday strongly condemning the attacks against the hotels.
"Theterrorists who committed these senseless crimes aim to sow fear amongthe Iraqi people," he said. "We call upon all Iraqis to unite incombating all forms of violence and attempts at intimidation."
Alsoon Tuesday, Ahmed Fadhil Hassan al-Majid, the nephew of the man knownas Chemical Ali arrived in Baghdad to collect the body of SaddamHussein's cousin and close deputy who was hanged Monday.
A grave was dug for Ali Hassan al-Majid near his hometown of Tikrit next to Saddam's two sons and grandson.