Middle East

Iraq violence: Blasts in Baghdad kill dozens

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Media captionThe tempo and violence of bomb attacks has increased, says Jim Muir in Baghdad

Four bomb blasts in Baghdad have killed at least 69 people, medics say, in the latest in a series of recent attacks in the Iraqi capital.

Three of the bombings targeted mainly Shia Muslim districts, while another hit a mixed Shia-Sunni area.

So-called Islamic State (IS) said it carried out two of the attacks.

The Sunni jihadist group, which controls large swathes of northern and western Iraq, has frequently targeted Shia, whom it considers apostates.

Medics said more than 100 civilians altogether were injured in Tuesday's bombings, which hit three markets and a restaurant.

The first and deadliest attack, which was claimed by IS, hit an outdoor market in the northern, predominantly Shia area of Shaab, killing at least 28 people.

A roadside bomb first exploded outside the concrete walls surrounding the area. A suicide bomber then targeted those who were helping the victims, a police officer said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the arrest of a security official in charge of the area, without giving further details.

A shift in strategy? By Jim Muir, BBC News, Baghdad

For the second time in less than a week, bombers struck in several parts of the capital in swift succession.

Iraqi officials and the Western coalition fighting IS believe the militants are turning increasingly to bombs in civilian areas, because they are losing ground on the battlefield.

In the latest campaign to push them back, Iraqi government troops with allied militias and coalition air support say they are pressing in on Rutba, a town in the far west of the country which was captured by IS two years ago.

But the militants are still hitting back. On Sunday they carried out an attack on a natural gas bottling plant just to the north of Baghdad, starting a battle that lasted several hours.

Shortly afterwards, a bomb struck a fruit-and-vegetable market in the mixed Shia-Sunni neighbourhood of Dora, in Rashid, to the south, killing at least five people.

Later, 21 people were killed by a car bomb, also claimed by IS, in a crowded market in Sadr City, a mainly Shia district in eastern Baghdad.

A separate attack there, by a suicide bomber who targeted a restaurant, killed nine others.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Officials said the car bomb in Shaab was followed by a suicide attack
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption IS claimed responsibility for the Shaab attack
Image copyright AP
Image caption Shia district of Sadr City has been a constant target for militants

The group was also behind three car bombings in Baghdad on Friday that left 93 people dead, and an assault on a natural gas plant north of the city on Sunday that killed 14 people.

The attacks come with Iraq locked in a political crisis, with parliament resisting attempts to reshuffle the cabinet as part of an anti-corruption drive.

Prime Minister Abadi has warned the deadlock is hampering the fight against the jihadist group.

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition airstrikes entered the IS-controlled town of Rutba, in Anbar province, near the Syrian border, officials said.

Officials said they faced little resistance in breaching IS defences, but expected street battles as they approached the centre.

Recent IS attacks

Image copyright Reuters

11 May 2016: Car bombs in Baghdad kill 93 people, including 64 in market in Shia district of Sadr City

1 May 2016: Two car bombs kill at least 33 people in southern city of Samawa

26 March 2016: Suicide attack targets football match in central city of Iskandariya, killing at least 32

6 March 2016: Fuel tanker blown up at checkpoint near central city of Hilla, killing 47

28 February 2016: Twin suicide bomb attacks hit market in Sadr City, killing 70