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Baghdad bombs at 3 hotels kill 37

BAGHDAD - Suicide bombers struck in quick succession yesterday at three Baghdad hotels favored by Western journalists in well-planned assaults that killed at least 37 people and wounded more than 100.

The attacks were another blow to an Iraqi government already struggling to answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out massive attacks in the heart of the capital since August, raising serious questions about the country's stability ahead of the March 7 parliamentary elections.

The blasts were launched over a span of 15 minutes, shortly before Iraq announced it had hanged Saddam Hussein's notorious henchman "Chemical Ali."

The first explosion struck near the Sheraton Hotel, along the Abu Nawas esplanade across the Tigris River from the Green Zone.

Two other blasts followed minutes later, striking near the Babylon Hotel and Hamra Hotel, which is popular with Western journalists and foreign security contractors. Militants in business suits walking alongside a suicide car bomb opened fire on a private security checkpoint at the Hamra, police and guards said.

No Westerners were reported killed or seriously injured in any of the three attacks.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the latest bombings "represent an extension" of the activities of insurgents linked to Saddam's regime.

But he stopped short of declaring the blast as possible revenge for the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali." He was sentenced to death for poison gas attacks that killed more than 5,000 Kurds in the town of Halabja in 1988.

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