Baghdad bombs kill dozens

Outdoor markets primarily targeted

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BAGHDAD -- Car bombs tore through shopping areas within minutes of each other Sunday in mainly Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 130.

The attacks come amid rising sectarian discord in Iraq and appear aimed at shaking Iraqis' confidence in the Shiite-led government. The explosions struck at the start of the local work week and primarily targeted outdoor markets.

Violence in Iraq has fallen since the height of sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, but insurgents still frequently launch lethal attacks against security forces and civilians. It was the third time this month that attacks have claimed more than 20 lives in a single day.

Sunday's attacks brought to more than 100 the number of people killed in violent attacks in Iraq since the start of the month. A total of 178 were killed in January attacks, according to an Associated Press count.

Sunday's attacks began in the morning with the detonation of a parked car loaded with explosives in the sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City. Two more parked cars later exploded elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Simultaneous explosions also hit the southeastern Baghdad neighborhood of al-Amin, where the force of the blasts left behind little except the mangled chassis of two cars.

An open-air market in Husseiniya, just northeast of the capital, and the Kamaliya area in Baghdad's eastern suburbs were also hit.

Another car bomb exploded near street vendors and a police car in the central commercial district of Karradah.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but similar ones have been orchestrated by Sunni extremists, such as al-Qaida's local affiliate.

The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, favors large-scale, coordinated attacks. It considers Shiite Muslims to be heretics and accuses them of being too closely aligned with neighboring Shiite powerhouse Iran.

As sectarian strife mounts, protesters drawn overwhelmingly from Iraq's Sunni community have been conducting weekly demonstrations and sit-ins since late December to rally against the government, which is led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The protesters have rejected calls for violence and distance themselves from extremist groups such as al-Qaida.

There are also concerns that Sunni insurgents could step up attacks ahead of provincial elections scheduled for April 20.

The ballot would be the first countrywide vote since the U.S. troop withdrawal more than a year ago.

The blasts came a day after a suicide bomber pretending to ask for help assassinated Brig. Gen. Ali Aouni, the head of the Iraq Defense Ministry's intelligence academy, and three of his bodyguards in the northern city of Tal Afar.

world


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