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Bombs injured kids, exposed weaknesses

By Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
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For Iraqis, fear and terror
  • Mother tells how she pulled her two children from a bombed kindergarten
  • Child injured in Baghdad bomb unable to sleep, and scared of her doctor
  • Victims angry at Iraqi government's apparent inability to protect them
  • Bombing also raises questions about whether elections will be held in January

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- The force of the blast threw Rawnaq against the wall of her office at the Ministry of Justice. She instantly thought of her two children in the day care center just two floors below.

"I rushed downstairs and found all the children under the rubble," says Rawnaq, "My daughter Tabarak was standing near the stairs. My son Hamoodi outside. Me and a colleague took them out, running. A police car drove us to the hospital."

Both children were injured, 3-year-old Tabarak much more so than her 2-year-old brother. Severe head and back injuries have left the little girl needing extensive surgery and unable to sleep because of unceasing pain. She is also deeply afraid.

"I try to talk to her all the time and I don't mention the attack," explains Rawnaq. "I even try not to show her the way she looks with the bandage on her head so she doesn't get scared of herself. She is even scared of the doctor now."

The blast outside Iraq's Justice Ministry was one of two suicide truck bombings that tore through central Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 160 people and wounding more than 500. The spectacular attack was the deadliest Iraq has experienced in more than two years.

According to Rawnaq, Tabarak will be fine. Many other families are devastated. Twenty children were reported killed by the bombings that day.

The initial shock and dread following the attacks were quickly replaced by sorrow and fury. The day after the explosions, people at the scene were openly venting their anger at the government.

One woman at the scene screamed loudly, displaying her rage and frustration.

Video: BackStory: Baghdad bombings
Gallery: Deadly bombings rock Baghdad
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"The government? What is it doing for us?" she yelled. "Nothing, what have they done? We have been widowed; we have orphans, car bombs, theft. What have they done for us? Elections are coming up and they want us to vote, why would we?"

The blasts have sparked serious questions about the state of Iraq's security and the fate of national elections planned for January.

What traumatized Iraqis can't understand is how another massive truck bomb attack in the heart of Baghdad could not be prevented.

It's been just over two months since more than 100 people were killed in attacks at the ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs. The August attacks led to tightened security in Baghdad, including the addition of blast walls and security checkpoints.

Many feel Iraqi security forces just aren't up to the task of protecting them. Ahmed, an eyewitness to the attacks, was furious. "I want to ask people a question," he said, "For two months they knew this building was under threat. If they can't protect a 200-meter street, how can they protect Iraq?"

While Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was quick to condemn the attacks, the response from parts of the government suggested that many were in a state of denial.

When the governor of Baghdad, Salah Abdul Razzaq, toured the devastation, he indicated that the security situation in Baghdad was good.

"All Baghdad now, the movement is already okay, there is no problem in any part of Baghdad," said Razzaq in front of the severely damaged Justice Ministry, "But only the problem here: it's because of this explosion and terrorist accident."

The second truck bombing Sunday happened just down the street, about a minute after the first. And it targeted the Baghdad Governorate, Razzaq's own office.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group for al Qaeda in Iraq, issued a statement, saying it carried out the attacks.

The authenticity of the claim could not be immediately verified, but it appeared on a Web site frequently used by the group. The group also claimed responsibility for the nearly identical truck bombings in August.

In a press conference the next day, Razzaq expressed outrage as he played security camera video showing suspect vehicles approaching the Ministry of Justice just seconds before the blast. The spectacular explosion was also caught on tape.

"If this was complacency, let all those responsible for this be held responsible," Razzaq said.

With national elections scheduled to take place in less than three months, politicians are eager to blame each other for the lack of security.

Razzaq didn't hesitate to point the finger at political opponents, saying the provincial council had met and voted for a demand to fire senior security officials.

Hanaa Edwar, with the Iraqi Hope Association, was also at the scene of the blasts the following day. According to her, Iraqis are sick and tired of the political infighting and blame games.

"We are demanding our authority, our government, our parliament, our president... stop these clashes ... and they have to make the Iraqi interests the first one," she said. "We are demanding that Iraqi lives, Iraqi security is the main things for us," she said.

While the Iraqi Parliament has failed repeatedly to pass a crucial revised election law, many are now wondering if the elections will actually even happen in January as scheduled. If they don't, there are fears there could be a spike in political violence.

For now at least, it's the human cost that's left the nation in terror and raising questions about a government that many say is failing to protect them.

"We are afraid that if we go back to work, they will forget us again," said Rawnaq in the hospital room of her injured daughter, "How can I take my daughter back with me to day care? She survived this time. If there is another bombing, she may not survive next time. There is no security anymore."

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.