x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Baghdad funeral bomb kills dozens

The blasts are the latest in more than a week of bombings, mainly targeted at the Shiite community, that have killed at least 200 people.

BAGHDAD // A car bomb ripped through a funeral tent in a mainly Shiite area of Baghdad on Thursday, the deadliest in a series of attacks that killed at least 40 people.

The blasts were the latest in more than a week of bombings that have killed at least 200 people, raising concerns about an increase in violence as the US military prepares to withdraw from the country.

The violence has mainly targeted the majority Shiite community and Iraqi security forces, posing a challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and his coalition government that was seated last month.

The car that exploded at about 2pm had been parked with the vehicles of other mourners, several metres away from the tent, so it wouldn't raise suspicion, police said. Several other cars were set on fire and the force of the blast damaged nearby houses.

At least 37 people, including four children and three women, were killed and 78 wounded, according to police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ali Kamil, a 22-year-old college student who lives nearby, said he rushed to the scene and saw the blaze raging. He said young men were throwing stones at the Iraqi security forces, accusing them of failing to provide protection.

"I discovered that a friend of mine from college was killed in the blast along with another friend of mine, and I saw four other friends from the neighbourhood injured," he said.

Three other Iraqis were killed in sporadic bombings targeting Iraqi troops and an electricity official on Thursday.

The first roadside bomb occurred about 8.30am near a police patrol at a commercial complex in Baghdad, killing one civilian and wounding five other people, including three policemen, officials said.

A bomb targeting Iraqi soldiers patrolling the Bab al-Muadham area of Baghdad exploded about an hour and a half later, killing one bystander and wounding three others, according to police and hospital officials.

The director general of Baghdad's central electricity directorate, Ismaeel al Obeidi, also escaped an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb struck the two vehicle convoy carrying him to work, officials said.

One of his guards was killed and two others were wounded in the blast, which occurred close to his office.

The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to release the information.

Violence has declined sharply in Iraq over the past few years, but near-daily attacks continue.

More than 170 people were killed in bombings targeting Shiite pilgrims and Iraqi security forces last week, shattering a two-month lull.