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Blasts, suicide bombers strike busy central Baghdad, killing at least 18

From Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 2118 GMT (0518 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eighteen are dead after four blasts hit a high-traffic area in central Baghdad
  • In one blast, a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside the Justice Ministry building
  • Iraqi state TV: Gunmen stormed the building but were killed by Iraqi security forces
  • The blasts happened near the fortified area known as the Green Zone

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Four massive explosions -- at least one set off by a suicide bomber -- rocked a busy area of Baghdad on Thursday. The blasts came in quick succession around 1 p.m. not far from the fortified area known as the Green Zone, where international and government employees work.

Black smoke filled the sky as fires raged for nearly two hours and frantic Iraqis shouted out for their loved ones. One woman screamed, "My son!"

At least 18 people were killed and 53 were wounded, police officials in Baghdad told CNN.

In one of the attacks, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vest inside the Justice Ministry building, Iraqi security officials told CNN.

Iraqi state television reported that three gunmen rushed into the building, but Iraqi forces killed them. Iraqi forces continued to search the building to make sure employees were safe, the government-run news outlet said.

It's unclear at this time how the bomber and gunmen were able to get to the Justice Ministry, considering there are multiple checkpoints and other security measures in place to help keep the high-traffic area secure.

A two-year college nearby was also damaged.

Three hours after the blasts, Iraqi military helicopters were still hovering over the Justice Ministry as the sounds of sirens wailed.

The attacks come as the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war nears. The invasion began on March 20, 2003.

iReport Special: 10 years on, the war through your eyes

Read: A decade after Saddam Hussein, Iraq still struggles

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