Baghdad - Bombings targeting shoppers across central Iraq and clashes near the militant-held city of Fallujah killed at least 42 people on Thursday, authorities said.
No one claimed responsibility for the string of bombings that began Thursday afternoon, mostly from parked car bombs and one explosive planted in an outdoor market. However, they bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda and other Sunni insurgents, who frequently use car bombs and suicide attacks to target public areas and government buildings in their bid to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government.
In Baghdad, a car bomb targeting shoppers in the southwestern Amil neighbourhood killed seven people and wounded 17, police said. A bomb at a cafe in Baghdad's Sadr City neighbourhood killed four people and wounded 15, authorities said. A bomb in a commercial street in central Baghdad killed three people and wounded 13, police said, while an explosion near the Green Zone killed three people and wounded eight.
Another bomb in Baghdad's southeastern suburb of Jisr Diyala killed two civilians and wounded seven, police said.
In Hillah, located about 95km south of Baghdad, two car bombs killed nine civilians and wounded 28, police said.
A police officer said an explosion also killed four people and wounded 10 in the nearby town of Iskandariyah, about 50km south of the capital.
In Mishada, about 30km north of Baghdad, a car bomb killed five civilians and wounded 14, another police officer said.
Three medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to release the information.
The attacks came a day after a series of explosions killed at least 24 people in different parts of Iraq. Such bombings have increased since last year, along with Sunni anger over perceived mistreatment and random arrests of Sunnis by the authorities.
Highest death toll
After authorities broke up a Sunni protest camp in December, they pulled security forces out of Fallujah and the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi to relieve tension there. However, that allowed al-Qaeda-linked fighters and their allies to seize Fallujah and parts of Ramadi.
On Thursday, clashes outside of Fallujah between militants and Iraqi security forces killed at least five people and wounded 13, a local hospital there said.
Widespread chaos nearly tore the country apart following the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. The violence ebbed in 2008 after a series of US-Iraqi military offensives, a Shi'ite militia cease-fire and a Sunni revolt against al-Qaeda in Iraq.
But last year, the country saw the highest death toll since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting, according to the United Nations, with 8 868 people killed. More than 1 400 people have been killed in Iraq in January and February alone, according to the UN, not counting those killed around Fallujah and Ramadi.