The Iraq al-Qaida group, led by Jordanian militant Musab al-Zarqawi, posted a message on the Internet claiming the bombs were targeting Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib, who is in charge of the nation’s police, according to the Associated Press.
Al-Naqib was in his office at the time of the explosion, but was not harmed. His building was unaffected by the blast.
The two car bombs exploded several minutes apart on a busy road across from a checkpoint in front of the Interior Ministry, according to The Washington Post. U.S. forces found a third car bomb that failed to detonate. After clearing the area, they set off the third explosive with no injuries.
Witnesses say the bombs sent columns of black smoke into the air, drawing U.S. military helicopters with gunners looking for possible suspects.
“I saw the cars, one after the other, explode in front of my eyes,” Imad Hashimi told the Post. “I don’t know how I survived.”
Ice cream vender Ali Ahmed, 28, said he heard an explosion, followed by gunfire and another explosion.
“My stall was partially destroyed because of this terrorist act,” he said told the AP. “Some people have lost their lives. As for me, I have now lost my source of income.”
The force of the explosions blew the windows out of several restaurants in Baghdad, near the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Since a relative lull in violence in March, recent attacks have killed at least 37 over the past two days. An hour before the Iraqi blasts, insurgents fired on a Kirkuk police station with automatic weapons and mortar shells, killing five police officers and one civilian, police Brig. Sarhat Qadir told the AP.