Baghdad: Attacks across Baghdad, including car bombs at an up-scale shopping mall and near a juvenile detention centre, killed 20 people today as rising violence fuels fears of all-out sectarian war.
The bombings and a deadly, weeks-long standoff in the western province of Anbar, part of a nationwide surge in violence that has already killed more than 600 this month, come just months ahead of parliamentary elections.
Diplomats including UN chief Ban Ki-moon have urged authorities to pursue political reconciliation with disaffected Sunni Arabs to resolve the unrest, but the US has said it will provide training for Iraqi forces in a third country and would ship small arms to the country`s security forces.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has taken a hard line and ruled out dialogue with militants.
Iraqi officials have instead trumpeted wide-ranging security operations against militants, including in the desert region of Anbar, which borders Syria, but they appear to have done little to abate daily bloodshed.
In Baghdad this evening, seven attacks -- including six car bombs -- killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 60 others, security and medical officials said.
One of the blasts went off near the glitzy new Mansur Mall, one of the capital`s most up-scale shopping centres, where families and young people often meet in the evenings to go to the cinema or eat at Western-style restaurants.
At least five people were killed and 12 more were wounded.
The area was deserted after the attack as shoppers rushed out of the mall and quickly made their way home, while security forces imposed restrictions on movement in the area, barring cars from entering or leaving the district, AFP journalists at the scene said.
Another car bomb in the Taubchi neighbourhood detonated near a juvenile detention centre, and fears of an impending prison break spurred the authorities to effectively shut down the area, an AFP journalist said.
The blast killed four people and left 13 others wounded, officials said, while Iraqiya state TV said security forces managed to repel the attempted jailbreak.
Bombs also went off near a bus station in Nahda, a bridge in Utaifiyah, as well as the neighbourhoods of Amriyah, Jamiyah and Adel, killing 11 people in all.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda often carry out waves of coordinated bombings in the capital against civilian targets.
Twin blasts at a Kirkuk market killed three people, while gunmen badly wounded a journalist after stopping his car at an intersection in Baquba. The journalist, who worked for Sharqiya TV, managed to escape his car but was shot three times and is currently in hospital.