Suicide bombers struck at a Baghdad military headquarters today killing 12 people.
The blast came two weeks after an attack on the same site pointed to the failure of Iraqi forces to plug even the most obvious holes in their security.
Baghdad has been on high alert as the US declared the official end to its combat operations in Iraq last week, yet the militants still managed to hit an obvious target in the centre of the city that has been struck very recently.
On August 17, an al Qaida-linked suicide bomber blew himself up at the same east Baghdad military headquarters and killed 61 army recruits in the deadliest act of violence in Baghdad in months.
Iraqi military spokesman Major General Qassim al Moussawi said 12 people had been killed in today’s attack and 36 were injured. Five soldiers were among the dead.
A car bomb hit the building and exploded and then gunmen assaulted the headquarters, battling with the building’s guards in a 15-minute firefight in the middle of Baghdad, according to police officials, who said at least three militants were wearing explosives belts.
The bombers were headed to the building’s entrance on foot but were shot by the guards before they could trigger their devices. One was only wounded and has been taken into custody.
Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al Askari confirmed that some of the gunmen were wearing explosives belts. He said they were planning a second blast.
“The plan was to strike twice,” he said. “First with a car bomb and then with suicide bombers.”
The latest attack is an embarrassment for officials in the capital where security has been high in recent days as insurgents intensify their strikes on Iraqi police and soldiers to mark the change in the US mission.
The building attacked today is the headquarters for the Iraqi Army’s 11th Division and an army recruitment centre.
In the mid-August attack, al Qaida boasted that its operative easily passed through checkpoints before detonating his explosives belt in a crowd of officers and recruits outside the building.
The Iraqi security forces are now solely responsible for protecting the country after President Barack Obama declared an end to US combat operations on Wednesday. Many, however, doubt that Iraq’s police and army are a match for the well-armed insurgency determined to bring down the Shiite-led government.
Last week Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki put his nation on its highest level of alert for terror attacks, warning of plots to sow fear and chaos in the country. He said insurgents would try to exploit widespread frustration with years of frequent power outages and problems with other public services by staging riots and attacks on government offices.
US and Iraqi officials have long worried that political instability would lead to widespread violence in Iraq, and the lack of a power-sharing agreement among the competing leaders has only increased fears.
Six months after an inconclusive election in March, Iraq still has no government as Mr al Maliki, a Shiite, is struggling to keep his job after his political coalition came in a close second to a Sunni-dominated alliance in the March 7 vote.