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Three blasts strike Baghdad hotel district

Three car bombs exploded today near three Baghdad hotels popular with Western journalists and businessmen, killing at least 24 people and wounding scores more, Iraqi police said.

The first explosion struck at about 3.40pm in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel, toppling high concrete blast walls protecting the site and damaging a number of buildings along the Abu Nawas esplanade across the Tigris River from the Green Zone, two Iraqi police officials said.

Two other blasts followed minutes later, striking near the Babylon Hotel and al-Hamra Hotel, which is popular with Western journalists.

The blasts come about a month a half after a series of five blasts struck Baghdad, killing 127 people and injuring more than 500. The 8 December attacks — which included suicide bombings outside a court complex and the Finance Ministry — brought a wave of outrage from parliament members and others for security lapses in the capital.

Multiple blasts in August and October also targeted government buildings, killing more than 255 people.

Earlier today, an Iraqi security official defended a bomb-detecting device that Britain banned for export to Iraq because of questions about whether it works, saying it would be a "big mistake" to withdraw it from checkpoints.

The ADE651, made by the British company ATSC, is used at security points across Iraq, including outside the protected Green Zone that includes the Iraqi parliament and the US and British embassies. Britain halted the export of the machine to Iraq and Afghanistan after a BBC report challenged its effectiveness.