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Baghdad area bombings kill at least 35

09 December, 2013

BAGHDAD: A wave of bombings mostly targeting Shiite areas in and around Baghdad killed at least 35 people Sunday as surging violence spurs concerns Iraq is falling back into all-out conflict.

The blasts, including seven car bombs, are the latest in a months-long rise in bloodshed that has forced the authorities to appeal for international help just months before the country's first elections in four years.

Officials have pointed the finger at Al-Qaeda-linked militants emboldened by the civil war in neighbouring Syria, but analysts and diplomats say the government has not done enough to address underlying domestic problems fuelling the violence. At least 13 bombs exploded from around mid-day (0900 GMT) across Baghdad province, targeting mostly Shiite areas.

They killed at least 35 people and wounded more than 110 overall, according to security and medical officials.

The deadliest of the violence hit Al-Amil and Bayaa neighbourhoods in south Baghdad, with separate bombings killing five people in each area. Interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan gave a far lower toll for the Baghdad violence, saying three people were killed and 10 wounded.

Officially released death tolls are consistently far lower than those from other sources, and the interior ministry has sharply criticised media organisations for reporting figures higher than those it gives.

Attacks also hit areas outside the Iraqi capital.

A car bomb exploded near Baquba, north of Baghdad, killing one person and wounding four, while a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul wounded five people.

And in Basra province in south Iraq, security officials said a roadside bomb exploded near an Aegis private security company convoy, causing no casualties. Sunday's bombings came a day after attacks nationwide killed 16 people, nine of whom were shot dead at alcohol shops in Baghdad. With the latest attacks, the death toll for the first eight days of this month has already surpassed that for the entire month of December last year, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.

Violence in Iraq has reached a level this year not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a brutal period of rampant sectarian killings.

Unrest spiked after security forces stormed a Sunni Arab protest camp north of Baghdad in April, sparking clashes that killed dozens of people.

Members of the country's Sunni minority, who complain of discrimination at the hands of the Shiite-led government, have held demonstrations for almost a year. The government has made some concessions aimed at placating Sunni Arabs, including freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of anti-Al-Qaeda fighters, and has also trumpeted security operations against militants.

But daily attacks have shown no sign of abating, and violence has killed more than 6,300 people since the beginning of the year, AFP figures show.

Despite a near-ubiquitous security force presence, attacks have hit targets ranging from cafes and football fields to military checkpoints and government vehicles.

The violence has forced the authorities to appeal for international help, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki used a trip to Washington to call for the timely delivery of new weapons and increased intelligence cooperation. France and Turkey have also both offered assistance.


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