Middle East

Iraq: Twin bombing near Baghdad after Green Zone attack

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionOfficials say the second attack exploded as people tended to the victims of the first

A double bomb attack on a government building in a town near Iraq's capital Baghdad has killed at least 35 people and wounded dozens, officials say.

The first device exploded in the car park of the municipal office in Taji, 20km (12 miles) north of Baghdad, officials told BBC Arabic.

After people rushed to the scene, a car bomb was detonated remotely, they said.

Earlier, a rocket attack killed five people in the city's heavily fortified Green Zone.

June has been the deadliest month this year for Iraqi civilians, official figures show, with frequent attacks targeting local government buildings, in addition to targeted strikes on Iraqi police and security personnel.

The government has blamed al-Qaeda for the attacks, but the US military says Iranian-backed militias are responsible for the violence, which also claimed the lives of 14 US soldiers last month.

US celebrations

Raad al-Tamimi, the head of Taji municipality, said the noon blasts were timed to cause maximum damage.

"The place was crowded with people who were going to process official papers and with police and employees," he told Reuters news agency.

"I was standing in a line when suddenly a powerful blast shook the ground," said witness Karrar Abid.

"I immediately covered my face as shrapnel and shattered glass flew around. I heard people screaming, 'car bomb, car bomb, people killed'. I turned around to see four cars set ablaze, with smoke and dust filling the area," he told Reuters.

"The second blast awakened me from the shock, to see people covered with blood screaming for help."

In the heart of the capital, a rocket strike on the edge of the Green Zone on Monday night killed three women and two children when it landed on the grounds of the al-Rasheed hotel, Baghdad security spokesman Maj Gen Qassim Atta said.

Ten people were wounded and 25 caravans - occupied by workers at the hotel - were set ablaze. Two men have been arrested, Gen Atta said.

The AP news agency said the rocket attack came as American officials were holding Fourth of July celebrations at the US embassy nearby.

The bombings follow a series of attacks that mainly targeted Iraqi security forces over the last two days, killing at least 10 people.

Overall violence in the country spiked in June, with 271 Iraqi civilians killed, up 34% from May's toll, government figures show.

Fourteen US soldiers were also killed in June, making it the bloodiest month since June 2008 for US troops, who are due to withdraw from Iraq by the end of this year.