BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives attacked a checkpoint in front of the Iraqi Interior Ministry on Monday morning, killing five, wounding 39 and roiling a country unsettled by a political crisis and a wave of deadly bombings just days ago.
As Baghdad’s rush hour was beginning around 7:30 a.m., the bomber tried to ram the car through one of the few entrances to a compound that houses the ministry, the country’s police academy, several jails and a hospital, according to officials.
Security officers opened fire on the car and the bomber detonated the explosives, killing two of the officers and three civilians, the officials said. Many officers were among the wounded.
“When the explosion happened it was so loud I couldn’t hear anything — I felt like I was in a different world,” said Ahmed Abed, 45, a taxi driver whose car was damaged in the attack. “What am I going to do now? I depend on this car for supporting my family.”
The Ministry of Interior has a symbolic importance in the ongoing political crisis that engulfed the country as the last American troops were withdrawing a little more than a week ago. The crisis began when a spokesman for the ministry, which is controlled by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, publicly accused the country’s Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, of running a death squad.
In a televised news conference, the spokesman waved a warrant for Mr. Hashimi’s arrest in front of the cameras and played videotaped confessions of Mr. Hashimi’s body guards saying he was behind orders they received to kill government officials. The accusations were a tipping point in a widening rift between Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-led government and leaders of the country’s Sunni minority.
On Thursday morning, a series of explosions across Baghdad killed more than 60 people, marking the deadliest day in the capital in more than a year and underscoring the country’s tenuous security.
No group claimed responsibility for that attack or the one on Monday, but they were similar to others conducted by Al Qaeda in Iraq, the insurgent group accused of trying to plunge the country back into a sectarian conflict by pitting Sunnis and Shiites against one another.
The bombing on Monday came hours after the Iraqi government reached a potential breakthrough to relocate 3,400 Iranian dissidents living at a camp inside Iraq’s borders, potentially unwinding a standoff between Iraq and the camp’s residents. The exiles are members a paramilitary group that has tried to topple Iran’s government and is listed as a terrorist group by the United States. They were given refuge by Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran, but the current Iraqi government, with closer ties to Iran, has vowed to dismantle the camp in eastern Iraq.