Insurgents launch deadly wave of car bombings across Baghdad

A wave of a dozen car bombings hit in and around the Iraqi capital during morning rush hour, officials said, killing at least 36 people in the latest co-ordinated attack by insurgents.

The blasts, which wounded scores more, are part of a months-long surge of attacks that it is reviving fears of a return to the widespread sectarian bloodshed that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Suicide attacks, car bombings and other violence have killed more than 3,000 people since April, including more than 500 since the start of July, according to an Associated Press count.

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There was no immediate claim of responsibility for this morning’s attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida’s Iraqi arm.

The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, frequently uses car bombs, suicide bombers and co-ordinated blasts in an effort to break Iraqis’ confidence in the Shiite-led government.

Six police officers said a total of 12 parked cars exploded in markets and parking lots in predominantly Shiite neighbourhoods of Baghdad within one hour.

They say the deadliest was in the eastern Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City, where two separate explosions killed nine civilians and wounded 33 others.

Two other separate car bombs went off in the northern Hurriyah neighbourhood, killing six bystanders and wounding 23 others. In the busy northern Kazimiyah neighbourhood, another parked car bomb killed four civilians and wounded 12.

In the southwestern area of Bayaa, three civilians were killed and 15 wounded in another car bomb explosion. In western Baghdad in the neighbourhood of Shurta, two other people were killed and 14 wounded. In the southern Abu Disheer area, four civilians were killed and 17 wounded. Another bomb was in the northwestern Tobchi district, killing three and wounding 10 others.

Five more people were killed and 44 others wounded in the southwestern Risala neighbourhood, the northern Shaab neighbourhood and in the town of Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles (30km) south of Baghdad.

Seven health officials confirmed the casualty figures and said scores more were wounded.

The violence surged after an April crackdown by security forces on a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija that killed 44 civilians and a member of the security forces, according to United Nations estimates.

The bloodshed is linked to rising sectarian divisions between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite as well as friction between Arabs and Kurds, dampening hopes for a return to normalcy nearly two years after US forces withdrew from the country.