World and Nation

Iraq Blast Toll, Worse Than Feared, Includes Children

Iraqi officials reached a tentative agreement on a new election law on Monday, even as workers continued to recover more bodies from the wreckage of Sunday’s bomb attacks, including an uncertain number of children from two day care centers.

The toll climbed to as many as 155 dead, with more than 500 wounded and an unknown number still missing.

The violence appeared to have jolted members of parliament into action: Calling the bombings an attack on Iraq’s national unity government, Iraqi leaders swiftly responded with a compromise agreement on a new election law that had eluded them for weeks and threatened to delay national elections scheduled for January.

The Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries began investigating security breaches that allowed the bombings to occur, Defense Minister Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi said in a statement.

The bombs were in a two-ton van and a minibus, which passed multiple security checkpoints to reach their targets, according to Baghdad’s governor. Trucks are banned from Baghdad’s streets during daylight hours unless they have special permits that are issued by the military and checked at every roadblock.

“There was a ton of explosives in each vehicle, and the blasts were extremely powerful,” said Brig. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq. “The crater was roughly 18 feet in diameter.”

The extent of the damage was even worse than initially feared, with three major government buildings destroyed rather than the two reported earlier.

The first blast, from the van, which gutted much of the Ministry of Justice, did similar damage to the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, located just across Haifa Street, a busy four-lane thoroughfare.

The second blast, from a Kia minibus, which happened a minute later, destroyed the Baghdad Provincial Council building a quarter-mile away.

At the first two government buildings, both seven stories high, workers were scouring the tangled debris of collapsed ceilings, floors and walls on Monday.

Iraqi official statements put the overall death toll at 99, but an official in the Ministry of Interior, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said it had reached 155.

There were conflicting reports of the deaths of children at the two day care centers in the Justice Ministry building, one for ministry employees and the other for employees of the Supreme Judicial Council. A police official stationed at the Ministry of Justice, Hussein Issa, said 30 children had been killed, but other officials said the number was much smaller. A final toll was impossible to determine Monday because so many of the children’s parents were still among the missing.

The Associated Press reported that 24 children had died.