BAGHDAD — Attackers unleashed a carefully planned assault with car bombs and gunmen disguised as police on the Iraqi Justice Ministry on Thursday, killing at least 24 people as hundreds of others crouched terrified in offices.
The raid in downtown Baghdad came less than a week before the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The fighting lasted about an hour, ending with security forces storming the four-story building after some of the gunmen detonated suicide vests, according to police and witnesses. None of the attackers survived.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda’s Iraqi arm. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq,often uses car bombs, suicide bombers, and coordinated blasts in an effort to undermine Iraqis’ confidence in the Shi’ite-led government.
The attack began shortly after midday in Baghdad’s Allawi area . At least two blasts went off near the Justice Ministry. Two other car bombs exploded nearby in what police believe was an effort to confuse authorities.
Amid the chaos, approximately six gunmen wearing police uniforms charged inside the ministry building, according to a police officer.
More than 1,000 people were in the building at the time, said Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim.