Baghdad — Insurgents wearing military uniforms stormed Iraq’s central bank Sunday during an apparent robbery attempt, battling security forces in a three-hour standoff after bombs exploded nearby in a coordinated daylight attack that left as many as 26 people dead.
The assault on Iraq’s top financial institution stoked fears that insurgents are taking advantage of political deadlock after inconclusive March 7 national elections to try to derail security gains as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its forces by the end of next year.
The 325-member parliament was due to convene today, but analysts have said agreement on a new government could still be months away.
Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi blamed the attack on al-Qaida in Iraq but said no money had been stolen from the bank, which holds gold deposits as well as U.S. and Iraqi currency.
The violence began with the bombings — which sent plumes of smoke over the city skyline — although there were conflicting reports about the number and nature of the blasts.
Al-Moussawi said 15 people were killed, but police and hospital officials later put the casualty toll at 26 dead and more than 60 wounded.
Violent robberies that bear some of the hallmarks of politically motivated attacks have been on the rise in Iraq, as sectarian violence ebbs.