Baghdad: A series of bombings struck Baghdad and towns south of the Iraqi capital on Thursday, killing at least 22 and wounding dozens in areas that are home to mostly Muslim Shi`ites, the latest evidence of rising sectarian discord in Iraq.
The attackers struck a day before tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims are expected to take to the streets in what have become weekly protests against the Shi`ite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The deadliest attack occurred around sunset when a pair of bombs exploded nearly simultaneously in Shula in northwestern Baghdad. One was a car bomb that was detonated outside a fast food restaurant and the other blast occurred near a soccer field.
The twin bombings killed 15 people and left at least 40 wounded, officials said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but car bombings in Shi`ite areas are a favourite tactic of Sunni extremists such as al Qaeda`s local affiliate. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, considers Shi`ites to be heretics and accuses them of being too closely aligned with neighbouring Sh`iite powerhouse Iran.
Earlier in the day, a car bomb tore through the crowded livestock market in the town of Aziziyah, 55 kilometres southeast of Baghdad. That attack killed three people and wounded eight.
A few hours later, a roadside bomb missed a passing police patrol in western Baghdad but killed a bystander and wounded eight people.
In the evening, explosives hidden beneath produce in the back of a pickup truck exploded in the town of Mahmoudiya, about 30 kilometres south of Baghdad. That blast killed three policemen and wounded six.