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Baghdad bombs target shi'ites, 23 killed

15 August 2013, 15:00

Baghdad - Bombings mainly targeting Shi’ite-majority areas of Baghdad killed at least 23 people on Thursday, officials said, a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed to press a campaign against militants.

Security forces have carried out major operations against Iraqi militants in recent weeks, but the action has so far failed to stem the worst violence to hit the country in five years.

The six car bombs and a roadside bomb struck six different areas of the capital on Thursday morning - five of them Shi’ite-majority and a sixth mixed - also wounding more than 70 people.

In the single deadliest attack, a car bomb exploded at a bus station in the Kadhimiyah area of north Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding 24.

Another car bomb exploded in Baladiyat near an office of Al-Ahad television, which is affiliated with Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shi’ite militant group that split from powerful Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militants including those linked to al-Qaeda frequently target members of Iraq's Shi’ite Muslim majority, whom they consider apostates.

Spike in violence

The violence came a day after attacks including a blast at a cafe north of the capital killed 17 people.

Another wave of attacks claimed by al-Qaeda front group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant struck areas across Iraq on Saturday, killing 74 people, among them 47 in Baghdad.

On Wednesday, Maliki said security forces would continue large-scale efforts to hunt militants.

"The operation that we started in chasing terrorists, and those who stand behind them, will continue until we protect our people," Maliki said.

He said more than 800 alleged militants had been detained and dozens of others killed, and that security forces had destroyed militant infrastructure used to make car bombs and seized a large amounts of weapons and explosives.

The premier did not, however, specify when the arrests were made, where the operations took place or who had carried them out.

Security forces have for weeks been carrying out wide-ranging operations in multiple provinces including Baghdad, after brazen July assaults on two major prisons, claimed by the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant.

Hundreds of inmates were freed in the well co-ordinated attacks, among them some said to be senior militants, raising fears that the escapes will bolster armed groups in Iraq.

But despite the regular announcements of the killing or capture of fighters in recent weeks, attacks still plague daily life.

Violence has markedly increased this year, especially since a 23 April security operation at a Sunni Arab anti-government protest site that sparked clashes in which dozens died.

Protests erupted in Sunni-majority areas in late 2012 amid widespread discontent among Sunnis, who accuse the Shi’ite-led government of marginalising and targeting them.

Analysts say Sunni anger is the main cause of the spike in violence this year.

Attacks have killed more than 3 460 people in Iraq since the beginning of 2013, according to figures compiled by AFP - an average over 15 per day.

And Iraqi government figures showed that nearly 1 000 people were killed in violence in July, making it the deadliest month for the country since 2008.



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