BAGHDAD (AP) — A series of evening bombings near markets in and around Baghdad and other blasts north of the capital killed at least 42 people and wounded dozens of others Monday in the latest eruption of bloodshed to rock Iraq.
The attacks were the latest in a wave of violence that has claimed more than 2,000 lives since the beginning of April. Militants, building on Sunni discontent with the Shiite-led government, appear to be growing stronger in central and northern Iraq.
The violence came as tens of thousands of Shiites poured into the holy city of Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, for the annual festival of Shabaniyah, marking the anniversary of the birth of the ninth-century Shiite leader known as the Hidden Imam. Tight security measures were in force to try to prevent insurgent attacks on the worshippers.
One of the deadliest attacks came at night when two bombs placed near a market blew up less than a minute apart in Baghdad's mostly Shiite neighborhood of Husseiniyah, killing ten people and wounding 30 others.
Police said the second bomb went off among a group of people who had gathered at the scene to help the victims of the first blast. Bassem Hazim, a merchant from Husseiniyah, said he was preparing for night prayers when he heard an explosion. He went out to see what happened.
"As we came near the blast site, a second bomb went off in the crowd. We helped carry some wounded people to the hospital. All the shops closed and all the shoppers fled, he said, but "government officials are busy with trips abroad and contracts while the country is bleeding."
Earlier, police said that two car bombs exploded within minutes on a commercial street in the mixed neighborhood of Jihad in western Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 21 others, police said. Also, four people were killed and nine others were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a line of shops in the Shiite-dominated area of al-Shurta al-Rabeaa.
Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan Ibrahim said that al-Qaida is avoiding direct confrontation with the security forces and instead are choosing civilian targets. "By attacking soft targets like markets, al-Qaida wants to send a message that they are still active and still capable of striking anywhere in Iraq," he said.
Police said car bomb exploded near a supermarket on a main commercial street in the Shiite Karrada neighborhood, killing five people and wounding 16. Just after sunset, police said a car bomb went off near an outdoor market in the Shiite suburb of Nahrawan, killing four civilians and wounding 15 others.
Minutes later, a car bomb went off near a market in the Shiite-majority neighborhood of New Baghdad. Police said that three people were killed and 10 others were wounded. Minutes later, a second car bomb hit a bus stop in the same neighborhood, killing two people and wounding eight others.
Also, two people were killed in a car explosion in the Christian-Shiite neighborhood of Garage al-Amana in southeastern Baghdad. In the morning, a provincial police officer in Ninevah said a suicide attacker rammed his explosives-laden car into an army patrol in the city of Mosul, killing a soldier and a police officer. He said that seven people, including two civilians, were wounded. Mosul is 360 kilometers (220 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
Another officer said a second bomber blew set off his explosive-rigged belt inside a university campus in the city of Tikrit, killing a police officer. The city is 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad.
Two medical officials confirmed casualty figures. All spoke anonymously as they were not authorized to release information to reporters. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but security forces and Shiite residents are frequently targeted by al-Qaida's Iraq branch.
Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.