x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Five car bombs kill 36 in Shiite areas of Iraq

In the past week, at least 218 people have been killed in attacks and battles between gunmen and security forces that began with clashes at a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq.

A 28-year-old bombing victim, Bashar Muhsin, is taken for burial in Najaf.
A 28-year-old bombing victim, Bashar Muhsin, is taken for burial in Najaf.

BAGHDAD // Five car bombs struck in predominantly Shiite cities and districts in central and southern Iraq yesterday, killing 36 people and wounding dozens in the latest wave of violence roiling the country, Iraqi officials said.

Since last Tuesday and including the latest deaths, at least 218 people have been killed in attacks and battles between gunmen and security forces that began with clashes at a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for yesterday's blasts.

The worst attack was in the southern city of Amarah, where two car bombs went off simultaneously in the early morning near a gathering of construction workers and a market, killing 18 people and wounding 42, the police said.

That attack was followed by another parked car bomb explosion near a restaurant in the city of Diwaniyah, which killed nine people and wounded 23. At least three cars were left charred and twisted from the blast outside a two-story building whose facade was damaged in the bombing. Shop owners and cleaners were brushing debris off the bloodstained pavement.

Amarah, about 320 kilometres south-east of Baghdad and Diwaniyah, 130km south of the capital, are mostly Shiite areas and usually peaceful.

Hours later, yet another car bomb went off in the Shiite city of Karbala, killing three civilians and wounding 14, police said.

And in the otherwise predominantly Sunni town of Mahmoudiya, about 30km south of Baghdad, a car bomb ripped through a Shiite neighbourhood killing six people and wounding 14, acording to a local police source.

Ibrahim Ali, a schoolteacher in Mahmoudiya, said he was with his students in the classroom when he heard a thunderous explosion.

"We asked the students to remain inside the classrooms because we were concerned [about] their safety," Mr Ali said. "The students were panicking and some of them started to cry," he added. He described burnt bodies and cars on fire at the nearby blast site.

The school was closed for the rest of the day and frightened students were told to go home. "We have been expecting this violence against Shiites due to the rising sectarian tension in the country," said Mr Ali.

Four medical officials confirmed the casualty figures.