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Three Car Bombs Kill Over 26, One Explodes Near Iraqi HQ

By Edward Wong

The New York Times -- BAGHDAD, Iraq

Three powerful car bombs exploded across Iraq on Monday morning, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 100 others in a day of carnage that demonstrated the relative ease with which insurgents are striking in the hearts of major cities.

A firefight between policemen and insurgents broke out in the middle of downtown Baghdad after one of the explosions, according to security contractors at the scene.

The first blasts rocked Baghdad as two suicide car bombs exploded within an hour of each other, one on either side of the Tigris River. The bomb in the west detonated after a car loaded with explosives rammed into a recruiting center for Iraqi plainclothes police officers. The attack took place near a checkpoint to the fortified headquarters of the interim Iraqi government and the American Embassy, and officials at one hospital counted at least 15 dead and 82 wounded.

The second car bomb exploded north of the Baghdad Hotel, mostly occupied by foreign security contractors, after a red station wagon sped down a wide commercial street and plowed into two sport utility vehicles, witnesses said. At least six people were killed and 20 injured, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. The explosion scattered body parts and pieces of flesh across nearby blocks, and men rushing to the scene began scraping those bits onto slabs of burnt car metal to ensure proper burials.

The third suicide car bomb exploded near a primary school in the northern city of Mosul, killing at least five people, including two children, Reuters reported, citing Iraqi police officers. The car might have exploded prematurely since there were no American soldiers or Iraqi security forces in the area, the officers said.

The attacks are the latest attempts by insurgents to keep up pressure on the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Car bombs have become the favorite -- and most lethal -- weapons employed by the fighters, with at least 35 having exploded in September alone, more than in any other month since the war began.