Baghdad: Back-to-back bomb blasts in a crowded Baghdad market near a revered Shiite shrine killed at least 11 people on Saturday, officials said, shattering days of relative calm in the Iraqi capital.
The bombings, which happened within about a minute of each other, appeared aimed at intimidating Iraq`s Shiites, who are a frequent target of Sunni insurgents.
The blasts struck about 500 meters from a shrine where two revered imams are buried, damaging nearby shops and buildings, according to police, who confirmed the casualty figures.
The attacks came as many shoppers were out buying new clothes in anticipation of the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins in about a week.
"It was a busy time for shopping, so there were a lot of people around," said Ahmed Naseer, the owner of a stationary shop nearby. "When I came out, I saw burning carts and merchant stalls, and children crying and women screaming out of fear. The whole place was full of panic."
Officials said at least 35 people were wounded in the attack. The blasts pushed to 15 the number of people killed across Iraq since late yesterday.
Earlier in the day, gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in the Shiite neighbourhood of al-Shaab, killing two policemen and wounding another. Late yesterday in the Karradah district, gunmen shot dead a police lieutenant colonel who worked with the State Identity Directorate, authorities said.
Hospital officials confirmed the deaths. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media.
Gunmen also shot and killed a prison official in a drive-by-shooting during the morning rush hour in eastern Baghdad, said Justice Ministry spokesman Haider al-Saadi.
Violence has ebbed in Iraq since the peak of the bloodletting in 2005-2008, but insurgents still frequently attack government officials and security forces in an attempt to undermine the Shiite-led government.
Today`s attacks marked Iraq`s deadliest day since September 30, when a string of coordinated blasts that hit Shiite neighbourhoods and struck at Iraqi security forces left at least 26 dead.