BAGHDAD - Iraq's government made progress on a new election law that could ease tensions and pledged tighter security Monday after suicide bombings claimed at least 155 lives, including as many as two dozen children trapped in a bus leaving a day care center.
But those promises held little sway with Iraqis outraged at the government's inability to maintain peace in the city.
The twin bombings in what was supposed to be one of the city's safest areas came as Iraq prepares for pivotal elections in January that will determine who will guide the country through the U.S. withdrawal. The blasts seemed designed to undermine Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has staked his political future on restoring safety to the country.
"Al-Maliki always appears on TV bragging that the situation is stable and security is restored. Let him come and see this mass destruction," said Ahmed Mahmoud, who had returned to the blast site Monday to search for his brother's head after identifying his headless body at a hospital morgue by the belt he was wearing.
The bombings were perceived as an attack on the Shiite-led government, and senior leaders, including the prime minister, the president and the parliament speaker moved quickly Monday to work out a proposed election law designed to help the country move forward with the January vote, an official close to the talks said. Lawmakers have been wrangling for weeks about the election law.
Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, scrambled to step up security in the capital after authorities said they had intelligence showing other targets were next.
The damage from Sunday's bombings was even worse than originally believed, with three major government buildings destroyed or severely damaged. The first blast hit the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works across the street, followed by a second explosion at the Baghdad Provincial Administration.
A busload of children leaving a day care center next to the Justice Ministry was caught in the first blast and 24 children and the bus driver were killed, hospital and police officials said.
There have been no claims of responsibility, but massive car bombs have been the hallmark of Sunni insurgents.