A dual car bomb attack has killed as many as 132 people and left at least 512 more wounded in Baghdad according to medical officials there.
The bombs went off in what appears to have been a sychronised attack, outside the justice ministry and the city’s provincial government offices.
Nearby streets were littered with charred bodies, as fire engines and ambulances struggled through gridlocked traffic to reach the blazing buildings.
The attacks, which happened within minutes of each other at around 10:30 am local time, destroyed dozens of cars and shattered water pipes, flooding the streets and hampering rescue operations.
Thick smoke billowed over the stricken area and flames could be seen coming from the two city centre buildings.
The windows of nearby offices were shattered and firemen used ladders to reach the upper floors of the ministries, fearing that many dead and wounded could be trapped.
Dazed onlookers were treated for shock by the roadside. One injured man said: “There were two vehicles which exploded one after the other.”
The twin bombings came as Iraqi political leaders were about to meet to try to end deadlock over a stalled election law, amid concerns that the country’s January 16 poll might be delayed.
Rising violence may now threaten the poll, a critical test of Iraq’s stability after year’s of sectarian killings unleashed by the US led invasion in 2003.
132 killed and hundreds wounded in Baghdad attacks