A parked car exploded during rush hour, police officials said. A medical official in a nearby hospital confirmed the casualty figures.
The attack followed a bloody day in Baghdad when insurgents set off a wave of car bombs and other explosions that killed at least 65.
There were almost 20 attacks yesterday, demonstrating how dangerously divided Iraq remains more than a year after American troops withdrew. More than 240 people were wounded.
It was Iraq’s bloodiest day since September 9 when an onslaught of bombings and shootings killed 92.
Violence has ebbed sharply since the peak of Sunni-Shiite fighting that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007. But insurgents are still able to stage high-profile attacks, while sectarian and ethnic rivalries continue to tear at the fabric of national unity.
The symbolism of Tuesday’s attacks was strong, coming 10 years to the day, Washington time, that president George Bush announced the start of hostilities against Iraq. It was already early March 20, 2003, in Iraq when the air strikes began.
The military action quickly ousted Saddam Hussein but led to years of bloodshed as Sunni and Shiite militants fought US forces and each other, leaving nearly 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis dead.
The apparently co-ordinated attacks around the country included car bombs and explosives stuck to the underside of vehicles. They targeted government security forces and mainly Shiite areas.
Iraqi officials believe al-Qaida’s Iraq arm is to blame. It has claimed two large-scale attacks already this month, including an assault on the Justice Ministry in Baghdad last week that left 30 dead. Sabah al-Nuaman, a spokesman for Iraq’s counter-terrorism services, said al-Qaida is trying to exploit political instability in the country.
He also linked the violence to the civil war across the border in Syria, where largely Sunni rebels – some with ties to al-Qaida – are trying to topple president Bashar Assad.
The violence started around 8am, when a bomb exploded outside a popular restaurant, killing four people.
The deadliest attack was a 10am car bombing near the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Seven people were killed.
Amid the political tensions, Iraq’s cabinet decided to postpone next month’s local elections in two provinces dominated by Sunnis.