At least 71 people were killed and 201wounded in a series of bombings and attacks across Baghdad on Wednesday, police and medical sources said, extending the worst wave of violence in Iraq in at least five years.
In one of the worst incidents a car bomb killed seven people and wounded 23 in Jisr Diyala in southeastern Baghdad, police and medics said.
In Sadr City, an impoverished district in Baghdad’s northeast, two car bombs killed seven people. A restaurant owner said he saw an attacker just before one of the explosions.
“A man parked his car in front of the restaurant. He got breakfast and drank his tea. (Then) I heard a huge explosion when I was inside the kitchen,” the owner, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.
“When I went outside, I saw his car completely damaged and he had disappeared. Many people were hurt,” he said.
The Interior Ministry described the attacks were “terrorist explosions” but said the number of people killed was only 20, with 213 wounded. The government has said that media reports exaggerate attacks in Iraq and that security forces have stopped many attempted bombings.
However, Wednesday’s violence was worst since Aug 10, when nearly 80 people were killed during a religious holiday.
Insurgent groups, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, have significantly increased their attacks this year. More than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in July, the highest monthly death toll since 2008, according to the United Nations.
More than two years of civil war in neighboring Syria have aggravated deep-rooted divisions in Iraq.
The renewed violence, 18 months after US troops withdrew from Iraq, has sparked fears of a return to the scale of slaughter in 2006 and 2007.
In Latifiya, gunmen opened fire on six members of al-Sahwa – former insurgents who rebelled against al-Qaeda – manning a checkpoint south of Baghdad. Gunmen also stormed a home in the same area, killing six family members, police and medical sources said.
In Kadhimiya, a district in northwestern Baghdad, two roadside bombs and one car bomb killed five people and wounded nearly 30, the sources said.
Four soldiers were killed and five were wounded in Madaen, southeast of Baghdad, by a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol, police and medics said.
Iraqis have suffered extreme violence for years, but since the start of 2013 the intensity of attacks on civilians has dramatically increased.
Bomb attacks have increasingly targeted cafes and other places where families gather, as well as the usual targets of military facilities and checkpoints.