A suicide car bomber struck a mostly Shiite neighborhood Thursday in central Baghdad, killing 26 people, hours after the prime minister promised the coming U.S.-Iraq security sweep in the capital would pursue militants wherever they were hiding.
The blast occurred shortly after two rockets slammed into the heavily fortified Green Zone. Two hours later, a second huge explosion rocked the
Police said they had blown up a second car bomb that had been disabled before its second suicide bomber could detonate it.
A massive plume of black smoke rose into the air on the east bank of the Tigris River and heavy gunfire rang out in the aftermath of the explosions.
The suicide bomber struck in the central neighborhood of Karradah, the second to hit the area in three days.
At least three policemen were among the dead.
Angry Shiite residents took to the streets chanting "We want the Sunnis out!" There is a small Christian and Sunni population in that section of the city.
The blast destroyed three minivans, 11 cars and dozens of shops, as well as the neighborhood's post office, according to a resident.
It struck shortly after the explosions in the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. and British embassies and Iraqi government offices. The public address system inside the massive compound could be heard warning in English that people should take cover because "this is not a drill."
The U.S. military said initial reports indicated that at least two rockets struck the Green Zone, but it said it could not give more details.
Karradah has been the site of several bombings, including one on Tuesday that killed four people and wounded seven.
Ambulances raced from the scene, at least one with the back door still open and bodies stacked in the back.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told lawmakers that the coming U.S-Iraqi security sweep in Baghdad would not be the last battle against militants, and he said the insurgents would not be safe anywhere in the country.
Al-Maliki did not reveal the details of the plan, which he has dubbed "Operation Imposing Law," or say when it would begin.
But he promised to go after those behind Baghdad's rampant violence no matter where they tried to hide, although he promised to ensure the human rights of innocent Iraqis.