I don’t have much to add to the news of the massive car bombs that targeted three hotels in Baghdad. The New York Times is reporting the death toll of 36, with over 71 wounded. Horrible.
One of the hotels, the Hamra, is where a number of Western journalists live, and the hotel and compound where I’ve been staying lately. My journalist colleagues are, to the best of my knowledge, all accounted for and doing fine. (And, for my friends, I am in Istanbul right now, so no worries about me.)
There’s speculation that these bombing were timed as a response to the execution of Ali Hassan Majid, aka Chemical Ali. If so, that just re-enforces the fact that Al-Qaeda in Iraq is still pretty sophisticated and capable of quite complex attacks.
These bombings, in general, are a way for whoever–probably AQI–to generate attention and undermine confidence in the government before the elections. It’s the fourth such high profile attack since August. Weakened, the insurgent/terror groups are harnessing their resources to try and scare the hell out of people while killing scores of innocent civilians. If you target hotels, especially ones frequented by journalists and Westerners, then you’re sure to get ink and TV time. Usually, as seems to be the case here, it’s the Iraqi security guards and those unlucky enough to be passing by outside who get killed. Normal people.
What’s disturbing is that this kind of activity really, really, really, makes it difficult to live a regular life in the city. Yes, Baghdad is much better than it was two years ago, but who wants to live in a place that has an equivalent of the Oklahoma City bombing every three months? And how long will this level of violence go on for? These terror groups could potentially continue this kind of violence for years to come. It’s the nature of how the Iraqi government is set up. There are so many different factions pursuing different agendas–many of the factions armed and with ties to terror organizations–they can exploit the seams of the weak government and rattle the still fragile authority of the state.
UPDATE: For on-scene details, read the story from The Washington Post, which has its bureau at the Hamra compound.