A suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest struck deep inside the heavily fortified International Zone on Thursday, killing eight people when he detonated inside the Parliament building just a few feet from the main chamber.
In a separate and in some ways equally traumatic attack early in the day, a truck bomb destroyed the beloved, 60-year-old Sarafiya bridge across the Tigris and killed six people. The heavily traveled bridge has long been a symbol of Baghdad, illustrated on old postcards and drawings of the city from a more peaceful time.
The attack on the Parliament was the worst bombing to take place in the International Zone since the protected area was established four years ago, when it was known as the Green Zone. At a time when Iraqis are increasingly questioning the government's ability to protect them, the bombing raised the troubling possibility that it cannot even fully protect itself, although it is at the wellspring of American and Iraqi military power in the city.
The bomber struck a half-hour after the day's session had closed, in a cafe area where lawmakers were lingering across from the main chamber. Among the dead were at least two lawmakers, both from Sunni parties. Of the 23 people wounded, 11 were parliamentarians, the U.S. military reported.
"This is a cowardly act and this proves that terrorism is indiscriminate. Sunnis, Shia, Kurds have been injured and maimed and killed in this attack. This should be a reminder that all Iraqis are targeted," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, after visiting the wounded at the Ibn Sina hospital, which is run by the U.S. military.
Salih and Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser, who was also visiting the wounded, said the attack was a major security breach in the international zone. Regulations there require visitors to undergo multiple layers of screening by an array of Iraqi forces, foreign contractors and American soldiers.
The image of the international zone as an impregnable fortress had already been on the wane. Regular rocket and mortar attacks on the U.S. Embassy compound have killed a civilian and a soldier and wounded several others in recent weeks. And senior military officials said two suicide vests were found in a garbage bin in the Green Zone about two weeks ago.