World News

Qaeda-linked militants claim Iraq hotel bombings

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi insurgents linked with al Qaeda claimed responsibility on Wednesday for bombings this week at three Baghdad hotels that killed at least 36 people, vowing bloodshed would continue.

The Islamic State of Iraq posted the message two days after three suicide bombs rocked the hotels, two of which are popular with foreigners and Western media.

“The knights of Baghdad descended on the heart of this wounded city and targeted another set of dens of evil,” said the message posted on a website used by militant groups.

The message named the Babylon, the (Sheraton) Ishtar, and al-Hamra hotels targeted in bombings that took place within minutes of one another in central Baghdad. The content of the message could not immediately be verified independently.

“(Attacks on) other security targets will follow soon, God willing, ... as these sites are legitimate targets for strikes by the Mujahideen (holy war fighters),” it continued.

The attacks underscore the fragility of Iraqi security just six weeks before national elections that could either solidify the power of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki or set Iraq in a new direction.

Monday’s attacks were followed by a suicide bombing on Tuesday outside an Iraqi Interior Ministry office in Baghdad. That explosion killed at least 17 people.

A series of high-profile attacks in recent months have targeted government buildings or symbols of state authority.

Editing by Louise Ireland