BAGHDAD (AP) — A coordinated wave of bombings tore through Shiite Muslim areas in and around the Iraqi capital early Wednesday, killing at least 58 and wounding many more, officials said. The blasts, which came in quick succession, targeted residents out shopping and on their way to work.
The attacks are the latest in a relentless wave of killing that has left thousands dead since April, marking the country's worst spate of bloodshed since 2008. They raise fears that Iraq is hurtling back toward the brink of a civil war fueled by ethnic and sectarian differences.
Insurgents deployed explosives-laden cars, suicide bombers and other bombs Wednesday and targeted parking lots, outdoor markets and restaurants in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, according to officials. A military convoy was also hit south of the capital.
The northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah, home to a prominent, gold-domed Shiite shrine, was the worst hit. Two bombs went off in a parking lot in the neighborhood, followed by a suicide car bomber who struck onlookers who had gathered at the scene. Police said a total of 10 people were killed and 27 wounded in that attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the day's attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida. It frequently targets Shiites, which it considers heretics, and employs coordinated bombings in an attempt to incite sectarian strife.
Many of the blasts targeted morning shoppers. A parked car bomb detonated in a commercial area in the northern Shaab neighborhood, killing nine and wounding 15.
More parked car bombs went off in outdoor markets in the sprawling slum of Sadr City, where five were killed and 20 were wounded. Similar attacks hit the northeastern neighborhood of Shula, killing three and wounding nine; the southeastern Jisr Diyala in an outdoor market, killing eight and wounding 22; and the eastern New Baghdad area, killing three and wounding 12.
Blasts also hit the neighborhoods of Bayaa, Jamila, Hurriyah and Saydiyah, claiming a total of 12 lives.
In Mahmoudiyah, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a restaurant, killing four and wounding 13.
And in Madain, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Baghdad, a roadside bomb struck a passing military patrol, killing four soldiers and wounding six others.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures, which included more than 180 wounded. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
The violence follows months of protests by Iraq's Sunni minority against the Shiite-led government that began late last year. Attacks have been on the rise since a deadly security crackdown by security forces on a Sunni protest in April, while the increasingly sectarian nature of the civil war in neighboring Syria is inflaming Iraq's own long-festering differences between Sunnis and Shiites.
In response, clerics and other influential Shiite and Sunni leaders have called for restraint, and security forces have tried to ratchet up counterinsurgency operations.
More than 500 people have been killed so far in August, according to an Associated Press count.
Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed reporting.