A powerful car bomb tore the facade off of Iraq’s main religious affairs office for Shiite Muslims on Monday, killing 18 people and wounding more than 50.
According to officials, the blast followed a series of attacks that killed 17 people in Baghdad last week.
Adel Ahmed, an employee at the nearby Baghdad Health Department, said he was reading a newspaper in his office when he heard the blast at around 11 a.m.
“The ceiling fell on my head and I was slightly wounded in the head and fell down,” Ahmed told the Associated Press by phone. He said walked to the scene of the explosion and saw wounded people on the ground screaming for help. “The scene was horrific,” he said.
Two police officials said the explosives-rigged car was parked in a parking lot near the religious affairs building and the health department. The front of the three-story religious affairs office collapsed from the impact of the blast. Firefighters were searching the debris for survivors. The blast also shattered nearby windows and damaged cars in the area.
The damaged building housed the so-called Shiite endowment, or department that supervises Shiite religious affairs, including holy sites and mosques across Iraq.
A doctor in a nearby hospital confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.