Blasts rock Shi'ite areas of Baghdad

2013-03-19 10:00
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Baghdad - A wave of car bombs and shootings mostly in Shi'ite areas in and around Baghdad on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq killed at least 23 people on Tuesday.

At least a dozen car bombs and assassinations across the Iraqi capital also left another 88 people wounded, with officials warning the toll could rise, amid a spike in violence that has raised fresh questions about the capabilities of Iraqi security forces barely a month ahead of provincial elections.

The attacks, barring one, struck in Shi'ite neighbourhoods in and around Baghdad during morning rush hour, with security forces stepping up searches at checkpoints and closing off key roads, worsening the capital's gridlock, an AFP reporter said.

Soldiers and police also established new checkpoints, and unusually, were searching government-marked vehicles that are typically allowed to pass uninspected.

In all, 10 car bombs were set off, including two by suicide attackers, along with one roadside bomb and two gun attacks, officials said.

The attacks struck the neighbourhoods of Husseiniyah, Mashtal, Zafraniyah, Baghdad Jadidah, Kadhimiyah, Sadr City and Shuala, as well as the town of Iskandiriyah, just south of the capital.

Spike in violence

Two people were also gunned down in Saidiyah and Mansur.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the violence, but Sunni militants often target Shi'ite civilians and government employees in a bid to destabilise the country.

Violence has spiked ahead of the anniversary of the 2003 US-led invasion, with 87 people killed in the past week, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials.

Britain-based Iraq Body Count has said that more than 112 000 civilians have been killed since the 2003 invasion, while a study published in The Lancet put the figure at 116 000 from 2003 up to December 2011, when US forces pulled out.

Since the withdrawal, Iraq's military and police are consistently described by Iraqi and American officials as capable of maintaining internal security, but not yet fully able to protect the country's borders, airspace and maritime territory.

Attacks remain common, however, albeit at markedly lower levels than during the peak of Iraq's sectarian war.

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