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Car bombs, serial blasts kill 55, wound over 200 in Iraq

Car bombs, serial blasts kill 55, wound over 200 in Iraq

The site of a car bomb attack on August 6, 2013 in Baghdad's Karrada commercial district (AFP)

Baghdad:  Car bombs targeting cafes and markets in Baghdad were among nationwide attacks that killed 55 people on Saturday as Iraqis marked the end of their bloodiest Ramadan in years.

The blasts were the latest in spiralling violence that authorities have failed to stem, with bloodshed at its worst in five years amid worries of a return to the Sunni-Shiite sectarian war that peaked in 2006-2007.

The latest violence comes just weeks after massive assaults, claimed by Al Qaeda's front group in Iraq, on prisons near Baghdad that freed hundreds of militants, with analysts warning of a resulting spike in unrest.

They also come as security officials trumpet a vast weeks-long security operation north of Baghdad that they say has led to the killing and capturing of numerous militants.

Overall, 11 car bombs and a series of shootings and other blasts killed 55 people and wounded nearly 200 across the country on Saturday, as Iraqis celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr holiday that follows the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A spate of vehicles rigged with explosives were detonated in eight different neighbourhoods of Baghdad - predominantly Sunni, Shiite and confessionally mixed - in apparently coordinated strikes.

The blasts struck public markets, cafes, and restaurants, killing 27 people overall, while violence earlier on Saturday killed two others, according to security and medical officials

A series of blasts hit Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 31 people.

Also on Saturday, north of the capital in Tuz Khurmatu, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle near a police checkpoint, killing nine people and wounding 48.

Another car bomb in the southern city of Nasiriyah killed two more.

Elsewhere, three people were killed and five others wounded in separate attacks in Babil and Nineveh provinces.

More than 800 people were killed in attacks during Ramadan, which began in the second week of July and ended this week.

Militants struck targets ranging from cafes where Iraqis gathered after breaking their daily fast, to mosques where extended evening prayers were held during the month.

The violence came just weeks after brazen attacks on prisons in Abu Ghraib and Taji in which hundreds were freed.

Analysts, as well as global police organisation Interpol, have warned that the jailbreaks could lead to a rise in attacks as many of those who broke out were linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Security forces have meanwhile launched major operations, among the biggest since the December 2011 withdrawal of US forces, targeting militants in multiple provinces including Baghdad.

Violence has markedly increased this year, especially since an April 23 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 Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting them.

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

In addition to security problems, the government is failing to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, and corruption is widespread.

Political squabbling has paralysed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.

Also on Saturday, north of the capital in Tuz Khurmatu, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle near a police checkpoint, killing nine people and wounding 48.

Another car bomb in the southern city of Nasiriyah killed two more.

Elsewhere, three people were killed and five others wounded in separate attacks in Babil and Nineveh provinces.

More than 800 people were killed in attacks during Ramadan, which began in the second week of July and ended this week.

Militants struck targets ranging from cafes where Iraqis gathered after breaking their daily fast, to mosques where extended evening prayers were held during the month.

The violence came just weeks after brazen attacks on prisons in Abu Ghraib and Taji in which hundreds were freed.

Analysts, as well as global police organisation Interpol, have warned that the jailbreaks could lead to a rise in attacks as many of those who broke out were linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Security forces have meanwhile launched major operations, among the biggest since the December 2011 withdrawal of US forces, targeting militants in multiple provinces including Baghdad.

Violence has markedly increased this year, especially since an April 23 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 Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting them.

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

In addition to security problems, the government is failing to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, and corruption is widespread.

Political squabbling has paralysed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.

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